After spending decades in the United States, a large stone sculpture created by Olmec artists more than 2,000 years ago that reflects ancient religious beliefs has returned to Mexico, where officials and academics have hailed its homecoming.
The sculpture, which is now known as the “Earth Monster,” was probably removed from central Mexico in the 1960s and spent some time with private collectors and on public display before being captured by antiquities trafficking officers working with New York prosecutors.
Nearly a tonne (2,200 pounds) in weight and covered in symbols, the artefact was probably discovered several decades ago at the Chalcatzingo archaeological site in Morelos state, south of Mexico City.
In order to return the sculpture earlier this week, American officials collaborated with their Mexican colleagues.
During the height of the Olmec civilization, one of Mexico’s first complex cultures with most of its sites concentrated near the Gulf coast, it was cut from volcanic rock sometime between 800-400 BC. The Olmecs are well recognised for their highly developed artistic history, which includes sculptures of enormous heads.
According to Mario Cordova, an Olmec archaeologist who visited the United States as part of the recovery expedition, the artefact shows a mythical mountain and its stylised cave entrance in the shape of a cross.
The cave and mountain were designed to represent the jaguar’s wide jaws and the underworld’s entrance, respectively. The jaguar was formerly Mexico’s most ferocious animal.
Some have hypothesised that the sculpture may have served as a sacred doorway during ritualistic activities.
A specialist in Mexico’s Huastec civilization, archaeologist Sara Ladron de Guevara, remarked of the object, “This is a very important piece,” noting in particular to the cross-shaped open mouth.
She said, “I don’t recall any other sculptures having this kind of opening.”
Other researchers point out that the Olmecs’ worldview, as depicted in the “Earth Monster” sculpture, is a recurrent theme in ancient Mexico, continuing all the way to the Aztecs, whose major temple served as a holy mountain and whose rise to power began about 1,700 years later.
Source- the print