Sunday, June 4, 2023

Back in Mexico, ‘Earth Monster’ sculpture points to ancient beliefs

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A colossal stone statue carved by Olmec artists more than 2,000 years ago that evokes ancient religious beliefs has returned to Mexico in a homecoming cheered by officials and scholars after decades in the United States .

The sculpture known today as the “Earth Monster” was probably taken from central Mexico during the 1960s, in the hands of private collectors before being seized by antiquities smuggling agents working with New York prosecutors. as well as being on public display.

The symbol-laden artifact weighs nearly a ton (2,200 pounds) and was likely found several decades ago at the Chalcatzingo archeological site in the state of Morelos, south of Mexico City.

US officials earlier this week coordinated with their Mexican counterparts to bring the sculpture back.

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It was carved out of volcanic rock sometime between 800–400 BC during the heyday of the Olmec civilization, one of Mexico’s earliest complex societies, mostly located around the country’s Gulf Coast. The Olmecs are famous for their advanced artistic tradition, including giant head sculptures.

According to Mario Cordova, an Olmec archaeologist who traveled to the United States as part of the recovery mission, the artifacts depict a mythical mountain and its stylized cave entrance in the form of a cross.

The mountain was designed to resemble the head of a jaguar, ancient Mexico’s most feared predator, with the cave’s open jaws and doubling as an entrance to the underworld.

Some have speculated that the statue may have been used in ritual functions as a sacred passage.

“It’s a very important piece,” said archaeologist Sara Ladron de Guevara, a scholar of Mexico’s Huastec culture, pointing in particular to the cross-shaped open mouth.

He said, “I don’t remember any other sculptures that include such an opening.”

Other scholars have noted how the worldview of the Olmecs as seen in the “Earth Monster” sculpture is a recurring theme in ancient Mexico, extending as far as the Aztecs, who began their rise to power about 1,700 years later and whose main temple was also a doubled in size. Holy mountains.

According to a book written by the father-son scholar duo Alfredo López Austin, “the mountain-cave-mouth symbolic complex acquired a high symbolic value from very early times in Mesoamerica, giving rise to increasingly complex sets of images over the millennia.” Gave.” Leonardo López Lujan.

López Luján currently leads the excavations at the most sacred temple of the Aztecs in downtown Mexico City.

The return of the Olmec sculpture to Mexico was welcomed by Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who spoke just before being carefully hauled onto a plane to fly back home.

“It gives us something that tells where we came from,” Ebrard said.

(Reporting by David Allaire Garcia; Editing by Tom Hogg)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters,

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