For the first time in Europe, The Olmec and the Cultures of the Gulf of Mexico exhibit reveals the richness, diversity and complexity of the Olmec civilisation (1600 – 400 B.C.) and numerous other cultures that followed, up until the early 1500 A.D.
Starting with the spectacular Olmec, over 300 objects show but a glimpse into the multiplicity of differing artistic traditions, beliefs and languages that thrived in the region bordering the Gulf of Mexico during three millennia.
The ancient Olmec lived and prospered on the coastal lowlands of the southern states of Veracruz and Tabasco. It is there that one finds some of the early examples of village life, urbanisation and monumental earthen architecture. Evidence of long-distance trade and a fully developed art style expressed in large and small-scale sculptures in stones ranging from basalt to jade reveal an established complex society with a sophisticated ideology that left an indelible imprint in the contemporaneous cultures and those that followed.
The artefacts displayed in this exhibition, originating from nearly 50 distinct archaeological sites, highlight the extraordinary multi-culturalism and dynamic interactions of ancient Mesoamerican cultures during the three millennia before European contact. For example, the section on offerings displays the multi-ethnic societies that inhabited the Gulf coast region. These ritual offerings ranged from those deposited in the natural landscape – closely associated to features such as springwater and hills – while in later times, they are mostly associated with constructed landscapes or related to funerary contexts. Among the most noteworthy items are jade objects, rubber balls, wooden and stone sculptures, ceramic vessels and carved turtle shells.
This exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico, and the Secretarìa de Cultura, Mexico.