Monday, November 3, 2014

Tlatilco burial artefacts reveal Olmec connection

The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, houses archaeological artefacts from across the country. Among the displayed material is a remarkable assemblage recovered from the Pre-classic site of Tlatilco in the 1960s.

Between 1962 and 1967 the anthropologist Arturo Romano Pacheco  conducted four seasons of excavation at the Tlatilco, State of Mexico. 213 burials contained rich offerings and grave goods, among which 154, part of a set of ten, was recovered intact for display in the Pre-classic Central Highlands room of the Museum.

Olmec iconography

The Tlatilco site is noted for its high quality pottery pieces, many featuring Olmec iconography, and its figurines, including Olmec-style “baby-face” figurines. Much else appears to be in a native ceramic tradition, but these Olmec style artefacts have led to speculation concerning the nature of their influence on other Mesoamerican cultures.


Burial 154, dated to between 1200-600 BCE (Middle Pre-classic), was excavated by archaeologist Roberto García Moll. It contained an adult male with cranial deformation and dental mutilation, along with a range of objects connected to shamanism. These include the famous “acrobat”, an earthen vessel with Olmec-style facial features, depicting a contortionist resting on his elbows, chest lifted, feet over head and hands under chin.

The individual was also  buried with green stone ear plugs, bone and haematite mirrors, a small volcanic stone mortar and prismatic artefacts  possibly used for divination. There were also several “fungiform” ceramic pieces that may represent mushrooms and/or phalluses. These high quality objects allude to the importance of this person within his society.

An important archaeological site

Tlatilco is one of the most ancient archaeological sites found in the Central Highlands of Mexico and one of the richest, providing an enormous wealth of information on funerary rites and physical anthropology of ancient Mesoamerican populations. Burial 154 can be viewed in the Pre-classic Hall at The National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.
Past Horizons. 2014. “Tlatilco burial artefacts reveal Olmec connection”. Past Horizons. Posted: September 18, 2014. Available online:

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