Olmec Sculptural Fragment of a Head - PF.6260, Origin: Mexico, Circa: 900 BC to 300 BC, Dimensions: 2.125" (5.4cm) high, Collection: Pre-Columbian, Style: Olmec, Medium: Terracotta. Considered to be the mother culture of Mesoamerican civilizations, the Olmec ruled a vast empire covering much of southern Mexico from around 1300-400 B.C. Today, they are famed for their colossal heads, giant sculptures that first alerted scholars to their existence in the latter half of the 19th Century. Scholars continue to debate whether these monumental sculptures depict the heads of rulers and kings or decapitated sacrificial victims. Thus, when the meaning of the most well-known monuments of the Olmec culture is open to debate, little can be known for sure about these mysterious people. The narrow, slanted eyes are characteristic of Olmec art. The down-turned mouth is a type known as the “were-jaguar,” thought by scholars to depict a shaman in the midst of transmogrification. Sometimes Olmec figures combine the facial features of this “were- jaguar” type with the fleshy cheeks of a human child. This small fragment of a head is but a portion of a larger sculpture. The greater meaning of the work would have been aided by the presence of a body. However, as it is, we can view this work as a miniature colossal head that symbolizes the artistry, magic, and mystery of this ancient civilization. As great civilizations rise and fall, they leave behind traces of their existence. Ritualistic objects, venerated in their own time, continue to exert an eternal force long after they have left the hands that once held them sacred. A mysterious energy still radiates from the core of this small head, a testament to the artistry and culture of the ancient Olmec civilization.