Some smaller Olmec masks were worn around the neck as a pendant. It may have provided the wearer with a new identity as an ancestor or deity – perhaps as the Olmec rain god. The distinctive toothless, down-turned mouth and infant-like face are typical of Olmec art. The ears are perforated and the mask may have originally been decorated with piercings.
The Olmecs lived in the low-lying Gulf Coast area of what is now Mexico in about 1200-400 B.C. at sites such as San Lorenzo, Tres Zapotes, Laguna de los Cerros and La Venta.
These and the other Olmec centres were well planned and included many of the features that would be associated with later civilisation in Central America including the Mexica (Aztecs) and Maya. Alongside impressive public spaces and large platform mounds made of earth, there is evidence of a ceremonial ball game and complex astrological calendars.
Olmec art is very distinctive and clearly reflects their religion. Jaguars feature prominently because the Olmecs believed that, in the distant past, a union between a woman and a jaguar produced an earlier race of were-jaguars.
The Olmecs worked mainly in stone and particularly favoured jade, or greenstone, which they believed had distinctive properties linked with fertility and procreation. These sought-after materials were brought into the region through long-distance trade networks.
CONDITION: Overall condition is very good. Obvious wear marks on the surface of the stone. The item is described to the best of our knowledge. Please refer to the pictures and email with any questions.