Child with Helmet, earthenware, Mexico, Olmec culture, 1000-500BC

Figure, 11th-6th century BCE

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The Olmec people developed the first cities of Mesoamerica. Situated in the tropical lowlands of Mexico, these early urban societies produced most of the major features of later regional civilizations: monumental architecture and sculpture, hieroglyphic writing, a calendrical system, and intensive agriculture. The distinctive Olmec art style, expressive of their religion, greatly influenced subsquent Mesoamerican art.A prominent motif in Olmec art is the "baby face," a fleshy human face with drooping mouth, squinting eyes, and snub nose. Here the distinctive features are part of a naturalistic depiction, but in many Olmec pieces they merge with feline traits like snarling lips and fangs. These pervasive references to the spiritual union of a jaguar and a human allude to an Olmec conception of the supernatural status of rulers.

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Child with Helmet, earthenware, Mexico, Olmec culture, 1000-500BC