The first known civilisation in Mexico started the long running tradition of carving life size masks carved from jadeite, nephrite and other similar stones. The famous mask of Lord Pakal from Palenque attests to the long life of this artistic tradition. The Aztecs some two thousand years later ritually buried a mask like this in the ruins of Tenochtitlan. The Olmecs flourished between 1,500 and 400 BCE, and were the product of a thousand years of cultural evolution in the region. They also invented the ritual ballgame that was to play such a central part in subsequent meso-American cultures.
Item in Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels Image credit: Michel Wal.
One of the four colossal heads carved by Olmecs (800BC). Heads measure up to 9 feet 4 inches (2.84 m) in height and weigh several tons, which causes a great deal of speculation on how the Olmecs were able to move them - basalt quarry was found over 80 km away.