The Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
IUAM Home Middle America next  
Collections main page back to thumbnails  
West Africa
Central Africa
The Americas
Middle America
South America

Native America






Pre-Columbian Americas
Olmec culture, Tlapacoya, Mexico
Early Formative period, 1200–900 B.C.
Clay, pigment
H. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm)
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection
Indiana University Art Museum, 81.32.3

"Olmec" is a name given by archaeologists to what is thought of as the Mexican "mother culture." It was centered along the eastern (Gulf) coast, but extended over a wider area. This bowl, for example, is one of a group of similar vessels found outside the Olmec heartland but attributed to that civilization. While we do not understand many aspects of Olmec religion and art, research suggests that the banded eye may identify the faces on this bowl as the god of spring, renewal, and resurrection.