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Olmec altar with two small human figures

Olmec altar with two small human figures

Altar with two small human figures, stone, Olmec (1200-900 BCE), width 1.29 metres, Museum of Anthropology, Xalapa, Mexico.

This sculpture is a good example of altars used, according to archaeologists, in special religious ceremonies. Today we know, thanks to a mural found in Oxtotitlán (Guerrero), that they functioned as thrones on which rulers used to sit, maybe on a jaguar skin, as is seen in some Classic Maya paintings. In this particular case, the throne was decorated with two short individuals with large heads, possibly dwarves, whose hands, like those of ‘atlantes’ [columns] sustain the upper part of the monolith, also decorated with reliefs showing symmetrical droplets of water, possibly representing the aquatic deities’ assistants who controlled the vital liquid.

- Adapted from Xalapa Museum of Anthropology: A Guided Tour (Gobierno del Estado de Veracruz, 2004, p. 30.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

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