San Lorenzo, the premier Early Formative Olmec capital, overlooks the tropical lowlands of southern Veracruz, Mexico, from a privileged vantage point bounded by meandering water courses of the Coatzacoalcos river system. Initial occupation from about 1500 bce was followed by its florescence, dated between 1200 and 850 bce. For more than three centuries this political center charged with cosmological significance was the heart of the Olmec world. As it waned after 850 bce, La Venta emerged as the capital.
San Lorenzo's complex organization is attested by immense earthen architecture and numerous monolithic stone monuments totaling about 500 tons. The site core, a plateau ringed by multiple levels of terraces, is the product of massive artificial modification of the natural landscape. Its 129 stone monuments, including ten colossal heads and several sovereigns' thrones, bear witness to the power of Olmec lords who organized the long-distance transport of the weighty sculptures from the Tuxtla Mountains. Recent (1990–1996) findings at the site include the ostentatious residence of an Olmec noble, a recycling workshop where sculptures were transformed into new forms, a buried architectural complex composed of low earthen platforms surrounding a sunken patio, and numerous sculptures, such as the tenth colossal head, which is displayed in the community museum of Tenochtitlán, Veracruz.
Cyphers, Ann. "Reconstructing Olmec Life at San Lorenzo." In Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico, edited by Elizabeth P. Benson and Beatriz de la Fuente, 61-72. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art/Harry N. Abrams, 1996.
Cyphers, Ann. "From Stone to Symbols: Olmec Art in Social Context at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán." In Social Patterns in Pre-Classic Mesoamerica, edited by David C. Grove and Rosemary A. Joyce, 155-182. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1999.
Cyphers, Ann, ed. Población, subsistencia y medio ambiente en San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, 1997.
Cyphers, Ann, and Mario Arturo Ortiz. "Geomorphology and Ancient Cultural Landscapes of Southern Veracruz." In Mounds, Modoc, and Mesoamerica: Papers in Honor of Melvin L. Fowler, edited by Steven R. Ahler, pp. 99-110. Springfield: Illinois State Museum, 2000.
Cyphers, Ann, and Mario Arturo Ortiz. Escultura olmeca de San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, 2004.
Cyphers, Ann, and Mario Arturo Ortiz. "The Olmec." In The Aztec Empire, edited by Felipe Solis, pp. 110-113. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2004.
Symonds, Stacey, Ann Cyphers, and Roberto Lunagómez. Asentamiento prehispánico en San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán. Vol. 2, Serie San Lorenzo. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, 2002.