The La Venta Museum in Villahermosa, Mexico, has an intriguing collection of Olmec sculptures, including three colossal Olmec stone heads. The artifacts had been moved there from the Olmec settlement of La Venta in western Tabasco, when petroleum exploration in the 1950s had threatened the safety of these rare objects.

My visit to the La Venta museum had inspired me to write a couple of articles on the Olmecs. One on the prevalence of yoga, and many elements of Hindu-Buddhist architecture and beliefs in Olmec culture, and the other on the possible significance of the colossal Olmec heads.

In this photo journey, I will describe some of the interesting artifacts on display in this open-air museum cum zoo, and bring in some Hindu-Buddhist perspectives wherever applicable. 
Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermosa
A replica of an Olmec Head at the entrance

La Venta Museum, Villahermosa

Stele 2, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Is that an Olmec hockey player? No, this is Stele 2, The Stele of the King. It probably shows a king or a dignitary with a staff, surrounded by six other figures, also carrying staffs. I think the face of the king has a distinct oriental look.

Monument 77, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Monument 77: The Governor. This may not be a governor but a yogi, for he is seated in a yogic posture called Sukhasana, and his fingers are performing a mudra called "gyan mudra", which is used during meditation. This sculpture led me to realize that the Olmecs were aware of yoga. Later, I saw online collections of many Olmec clay figurines and stone statues in various yoga postures. Check my article: Olmec Yogis with Hindu beliefs: Did they migrate from ancient China?

Monument 5, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Monument 5: The Grandmother. Not really sure why this is called the grandmother, nor is it clear what she is holding in her hands.

A bearded man with a flag.

Stele 3, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Stele 3: The Bearded Man. It shows two large men facing each other. One of them is bearded with a complicated head-dress. More figures are floating above them.

Altar 5, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Altar 5: The Altar of the Children. I think this probably represents an underworld deity of fertility, emerging from a cave, with a child in hand. All the Mesoamerican cultures believed that caves contained passages that led to the watery underworld of nine levels.

Altar 5, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Altar 5: More figures carrying children, on the left side of the altar. One of the deities has a snake wrapped around his head, which suggests he is a underworld deity. One child has a cleft head - probably a congenital deformity.

Altar 5, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Altar 5: More figures carrying children, on the right side of the altar.

Altar 4: Triumphal Altar. This could be an underworld deity sitting near a cave entrance. Above him on the cornice is a face with large eyes and sharp fangs, which resembles the "Kalamukha" or "Kirtimukha" depicted above the entrance to Hindu-Buddhist temples.

The deity holds a rope in his hand, just as the Hindu God of the Underworld, Yama, holds a noose made of rope, while Osiris, the Lord of the Underworld in ancient Egypt, holds an "ankh" made of cloth or reeds. The ankh and the noose are equivalent symbols and denote a "knot in the breath- thread", as I have discussed in my article: The Egyptian Ankh and the Hindu Pasha are Equivalent Symbols

Monument 3, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Monument 3: An Olmec head called "The Young Warrior", weighing 12.8 tons.

Monument 4, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Monument 4: An Olmec stone head called "The Old Warrior", weighing 19.8 tons

Monument1, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermos
Monument 1: An Olmec Colossal Head, weighing 24 tons. All the Olmec heads are decorated with a tight-fitting head-dress, with straps descending in front of each ear. The long ears are adorned with large flattened rings.The Olmec heads correspond to the "Dvarapala" or door-guardian statues placed outside Hindu-Buddhist temples. Like the Dvarapalas, the Olmec heads were placed at the entrances of Olmec ceremonial zones, were of very large size, and had similar facial expressions. Chinese Dvarapalas wore a tight-fitting head-dress and were depicted with long ears as well. I have discussed these correlations in the article: The Olmec Heads: Did they serve as the door-guardians of the Olmec shrines?

Monument 1, Olmec sculpture, La Venta Museum, Villahermosa
Another view of Monument 1, which shows how big it is.



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Bibhu Dev Misra

Independent researcher and writer on ancient mysteries, cultural connections, cosmic wisdom, religion and science. Graduate of IIT and IIM with two decades of work experience in different fields

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