la venta

︎Culture, Video, Sculpture, Spirituality.   
︎ Ventral Is Golden

"When the human race learns to read the language of symbolism, a great veil will fall from the eyes of men"
- Manly P. Hall

According to oral tradition, the area of ‘La Venta’ gets its modern name from the fact that precious woods were once sold there. It is considered one of the first cities of ancient Mexico (1200-400 BC), settled in a region of prodigal nature. The footprint of the mysterious Olmecs can be found in the urban layout, where the amazing stone sculptures - some weighing 35 tons - and jade offerings have been found.
The ‘mysterious’ nature of the Olmecs is attested to their sudden appearence in the meso-american region near the gulf of Mexico. Although their influence can be felt as far as Belize and across the coast of the Yucatan, their origins are still a focus of much debate amongst scholars today.
Most of their symbolic and ritual artefacts are considered to be the source of other prominent cultures from the Mayans, Zapotecs and Aztec, such as pyramid building, the astronomical alginment of structures, writing, the ball game (pok-a-pok), the veneration of the jaguar deity, and the first representation of the feathered serpent, to name only a few. 

Unlike later Maya or Aztec cities, La Venta was built from earth and clay. Large basalt stones were brought from the Tuxtla Mountains and were used almost exclusively for monuments such as the altars / thrones and the more culturally renouned ‘colossal heads’ of the Olmec priests, shamans and warrior classes (four of which were found at La Venta).

It is thought that little more than half of the ancient city survived modern disturbances enough to map accurately. Today, the entire southern end of the site is covered by a petroleum refinery and has been largely demolished, making excavations difficult or impossible. As a result, many of the site's monuments are now on display in the archaeological museum and park in the city of Villahermosa, Tabasco.

It is said that La Venta “housed a complex and surely hierarchical society, which sustained itself from the intense cultivation of maize and cassava (which the Olmecs domesticated both relatively early to obtain up to three annual harvests). They also knew how to take advantage of the richness of the very humid alluvial soils and the abundant water deposits and currents, with the Tonalá River and its tributaries surrounding the main site of La Venta (which was originally a small island) as well as an ecosystem rich in edible plants and animals.” (source).

Below is a beautiful documentary (originally presented by the University California, Berkeley) of an excavation taking place at La Venta during a 1963 expedition. It is an insightful introduction and overview of the Olmec culture and what was one of their principle cultural and religious sites.

︎ Altar 4 in its orignal position at La Venta.

︎ Discovery of an Olmec Collosal Head.

︎ Offering 4 (900BC), consiting of jade, granite and serpentine figures in a circular position, La Venta.

︎ Altar 5, La Venta. Photo by Ventral is Golden (2021).

︎ Olmec Tomb, La Venta. Photo by Ventral is Golden (2021).

︎ The Governor, La Venta. Photo by Ventral is Golden (2021).

︎ Collosal Head, La Venta. Photo by Ventral is Golden (2021).