Materiality and Meaning in the Formative Gulf Lowlands

Author(s): Jillian Mollenhauer

Year: 2016


In Formative Mesoamerica the built environments of San Lorenzo and La Venta became unique topographic assemblages combining local and regional materials drawn from riverbeds, salt domes, nearby hills, and distant volcanic peaks. These sites can be viewed as microcosms of their regional landscapes, incorporating natural forms and geographic referents as a way to manifest elite authority over the natural and human worlds. Integrated into these architectural settings were large-scale sculptures crafted of various stone types and sources. The material properties of these sculptures served to connect Olmec centers with the regional sacred landscape while simultaneously harnessing and transforming its spiritual power into political authority. In the ephemeral environments of earth, sand, and clay that comprised most Olmec site architecture, the stones imported to these centers persisted through time and space to reify and naturalize the histories of the Olmec elite. The materiality of Olmec sculptures and their settings will be explored in this paper to demonstrate how Gulf lowland elites manipulated the ideological and phenomenological properties of stone as a means of exercising their control over the landscape and its inhabitants.

Cite this Record

Materiality and Meaning in the Formative Gulf Lowlands. Jillian Mollenhauer. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403664)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;