Home > Art > Olmec Mask with Open Eyes (Rio Pesquero Style)
About the Object
The life-sized Olmec face mask seen here was carved from light green jade with hints of brown pigments. The work’s naturalistic features—including an open mouth, carved-out eyes, and drill holes in the nasal cavities and ears—indicates that it was worn rather than used only as a death mask like many other Olmec face masks. It is therefore likely that it was donned by an elite individual during rituals. Given the color of the stone, such rites were probably connected to cycles of agriculture, birth, death, and rebirth associated with fertility and the afterlife.
This style is linked with Olmec jade masks found in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. This was one of the heartlands of Olmec culture, which greatly influenced later Mesoamerican styles and representations of spirituality, power, architecture, agriculture, and cosmology or ideas about the universe. These include the Maya, Mezcala-Chontal, Mixtec, and Mexica (Aztecs or Triple Alliance).
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