Introduction: The Origin and Development of Olmec Research

A scholarly text, this reading surveys the history of Olmec studies and introduces major works and archaeological sites.  Read less for the details than for the broader thematic ideas and basic explanatory information (e.g., the explanation of the axis mundi, the discussion of different carving materials, and the conventions of Olmec iconography).  Be sure to scroll down to the Plates to see the objects referred to in the text.  This is one of the longest texts assigned for this course, but it provides a clear orientation to the nature of archaeological research and many of the terms and ideas that characterize our study of Mesoamerican art in general.  Many scholars consider the Olmec a mother culture for Mesoamerica, and we will trace their influence through the later Teotihuacano, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations.