Olmec civilization has been called Mexico’s ‘mother culture’ and the Worcester Art Museum’s Incised Standing Figure dates from the most advanced phase of Olmec social organization about 2,800 years ago. This rare artifact came to the museum from a famous Mexican artist’s collection, but was originally probably unearthed as a grave good or ceremonial object from the northern part of the state of Tabasco, Mexico. Recent research suggests that the figure may represent a star god based on the pattern of incisions around its mouth. The deity’s mound-shaped head also shows an ideal physiognomy that the Olmec actually tried to achieve through binding the crania of some infants during the first two years of life. By studying this sculpture in depth, we can learn more about this god in human form and what it reveals about one of the earliest civilizations in the Americas.
Image: shots of the Olmec Incised Standing Figure, Mexico, Gulf Coast, Olmec culture, ca. 800 B.C., museum purchase, 1958.32II. Who were the Olmec? III. Where was the object discovered? IV. Why does the object look the way it does?