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WHAT AND WHERE IS OLMEC STYLE? Regional perspectives on hollow figurines in Early Formative Mesoamerica

  • Jeffrey P. Blomster (a1)
Abstract

To understand better the significance of the Olmec style and its implications for Early Formative interregional interaction within Mesoamerica, one particular type of artifact—the hollow figurine—is examined. A definition of the Olmec style is provided based on Gulf Coast monumental art. One of several contemporaneous hollow-figurine types—“hollow babies” (Group 1)—is consistent with a Gulf Coast–based definition of the Olmec style. Fragments of Group 1 hollow figurines from across Mesoamerica are examined, revealing concentrations at a Gulf Coast center and, to a lesser extent, sites in southern Mexico. Rather than the primarily funerary function previously suggested for these objects, contextual data suggest multivalent meanings and functions. Group 2 figurines are related but different; variation appears in both the distribution of Group 2 fragments across Mesoamerica and their use. Available evidence suggests limited access to hollow figurines of both groups compared with contemporaneous solid figurines. A previous assertion that “hollow babies” were primarily produced and consumed in Central Mexico is rejected, and the significance of the differences among these hollow-figurine types is considered.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
  • ISSN: 0956-5361
  • EISSN: 1469-1787
  • URL: /core/journals/ancient-mesoamerica
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