La Venta

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La Venta

La Venta, an important center of the archaeological Olmec culture located on a swamp island 30 miles west of Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. Excavations conducted at La Venta in the 1940s and 1950s have played a pivotal role in shaping current interpretations of Olmec culture. Dating to as early as 1150 bce, La Venta appears to have reached its apogee between 800 and 400 bce. Originally interpreted as an empty ceremonial center, the site is now known to have supported a considerable population of fishermen and agriculturalists who made their homes on the banks of the many creeks and rivers that surrounded the site center. The ceremonial precinct of La Venta was dominated by a court enclosed by a fence constructed of basalt columns and a 33-foot-high great pyramid resembling a fluted cone. Scattered throughout La Venta were a large number of stone monuments, including four colossal heads. The majority of these monuments are currently displayed at La Venta park in Villahermosa. During the 1950s the site of La Venta was in danger of destruction due to both the construction of a nearby petroleum refinery and the encroachment of the modern town of La Venta. The site is now protected as an archaeological park.

See alsoOlmecs .


Philip Drucker, Robert F. Heizer, and Robert J. Squier, Excavations at La Venta, Tabasco (1959).

Michael D. Coe, America's First Civilization (1968).

Rebecca González Lauck, "Proyecto arqueológico La Venta," in Arqueología 4 (1988): 121-165.

William F. Rust and Robert J. Sharer, "Olmec Settlement Data from La Venta, Tabasco, Mexico," in Science 242 (1988): 102-104.

Additional Bibliography

Diehl, Richard A. The Olmecs: America's First Civilization. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

González Lauck, Rebecca. "La Venta: An Olmec Capital" in Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico. Benson, Elizabeth P., Beatriz de la Fuente, and Marcia Castro-Leal, eds. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1996.

                                        F. Kent Reilly III