Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies
Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

Mexican Center to Host Symposium on Olmec

Fri, August 1, 2008

In fall 2008, the Mexican Center of LLILAS will host a symposium on Olmec art and archaeology. Olmec: The Origins of Ancient Mexican Civilization will take place on November 20–21, 2008, and will explore the most recent scholarship by senior specialists in the field.

Precursors to the better-known Maya culture, the Olmec (1500–400 BCE) are recognized in current scholarship as the foundation of civilization in Mesoamerica. Widely known for their carved magnificent monolithic public monuments, the Olmec also originated the first inter-Mesoamerican art style, and iconography originating with the Olmec is found adapted in representations of the Maya culture. Recent discoveries in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, strongly suggest that the Olmec even may have independently invented a system of hieroglyphic writing around 1000 BCE.

The last major Olmec symposium in the United States met at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., in 1996. This year’s conference at the University of Texas will bring together leading experts on Olmec culture from Mexico and the U.S., including Rebecca González Lauck, Director of Research at La Venta, a major Olmec site, and Ann Cyphers, Professor of Archaeology at UNAM. Sara Ladrón, Director of the Museo de Antropología in Xalapa, Veracruz, is an expert on colossal heads, while Kent Reilly of Texas State University has written extensively on the role of ritual in Olmec culture. Other speakers will include Virginia Fields, Curator of Pre-Columbian Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Ponciano Ortíz of the Instituto de Antropología e Historia (INAH) in Veracruz.

Also this fall, LLILAS will receive as a gift from the Universidad Veracruzana at Xalapa, a full-scale stone reproduction of Olmec Colossal Head #1, also known as “El Rey.” The official unveiling ceremony for this sculpture, to be installed near the breezeway entrance to LLILAS and the Benson Collection, will take place on November 19, 2008, at 1:00–1:30 p.m.

All events are open to the public. Presentations will be made in English and Spanish, and simultaneous translation will be provided. For more information, please e-mail the Mexican Center or call 512.232.2423.

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  • Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

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