Copyright 1999 Mesoweb.
The Mesoweb logo stands for the diverse civilizations of Mesoamerica (ancient Mexico and adjacent Central America) and the theme of cultural connections over time and space. The fearsome "were-jaguar" on this page is Olmec, a term that refers both to an art style and to an archaeological culture that flourished between 1500 and 400 BC along Mexico's Gulf Coast. The archaeological Olmec and their neighbors bequeathed a number of concepts and visual symbols to the subsequent cultures of Mesoamerica.
NOTES, SOURCES & LINKS:
For the problems entailed in the term Olmec referring both to an archaeologically identified, Formative-period culture and to an art style and corpus of iconography that may or may not have originated (or originated solely) with this culture, see "Olmec People, Olmec Art" by Mark Rose (at Archaeology online).
For significant insights into Olmec religion and art, and to understand how the Olmec might have viewed the jade "were-jaguar" mask above as the "living face of corn," read Karl Taube's Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks (2004b:150), available as a free electronic download at the website of Dumbarton Oaks.
Also highly recommended: Olmec Archaeology and Early Mesoamerica by Christopher A. Pool.