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  • The Olmec Stone Heads of Mexico:

The huge proportions of the heads suggests that they (The people represented by the heads) were important people, and their association with the Olmec culture at around (800-600 BC) places them long before the Maya, Inca or Columbus's arrival in America. The stone heads have been found at the three most significant Olmecs sites in Mexico (La Venta, San Lorenzo and Tres Zapotez). They were carved from huge basalt boulders, some quarried in the Tuxtlas Mountains; some from the basalt of Cerro Cintepec; others from basalt found on San Martin Volcano.

It has long been suggested that the stone heads represent warriors or chieftain leaders, or perhaps a ruling dynasty. The clear prevalence of Negroid (and oriental) facial features on the stone heads has been said to be evidence of a 'fusion' of African and Pre-Columbian American races. Other evidence ranges from Linguistics, Plant Geography, Skeletons, Terracotta figures and even North African 'Tifinag' inscriptions on the Virgin Islands (3).

(An African Presence in Pre-Columbian America)

Another interesting theory has emerged recently which suggests that the helmeted figures represent famous Ball-court players. While we are more familiar with the ancient ball courts of the Aztec and Mayans, the history behind those games starts in the older culture of the Olmecs, as seen in their ceremonial ball courts. (4) It is reasonably proposed, on the back of this theory that the giant stone heads look the way they do (with flattened/broken noses and fearsome grimaces) because they reflect an aggressive, full contact sport. (2)

   The La Venta Heads.

The La Venta heads showed several similarities to the Tres Zapotes heads, and it emerged through archaeology that they dominated the ceremonial plaza, a feature which suggests that they were in some way 'revered'. Four heads were found at La Venta, all of them faced the Atlantic, and the largest at 9ft high had its domed top flattened so that it could function as an altar. A speaking tube was found going in at the ear and out at the mouth; a possible oracle or talking god. Radio carbon dates from the site were published in 1957 and they give an average reading of 814 BC +/- 134 yrs.  These figures were among the oldest at the La Venta site.

La Venta was not alone in its depiction of Negroid faces in stone. Apart from the four found there, two were excavated in Tres Zapotes and a further five at San Lorenzo in Vera Cruz, one of which, the largest known, is nine feet, four inches high, and is estimated to weigh around 40 tons. (3)

The La Venta heads are thought to have been carved by 700 BCE, but possibly as early as 850 BCE, while the San Lorenzo heads are credited to an earlier period. The colossal heads can measure up to 9 ft 4 in. in height and weigh several tons. The sheer size of the stones causes a great deal of speculation on how the Olmecs were able to move them. The major basalt quarry for the colossal heads at La Venta was found at Cerro Cintepec in the Tuxtla Mountains, over 80 km away. (1)


Images of the La Venta Heads

  • Monument 1: 3m (9.8 ft) tall. Current location, La Venta park-Museum, Villahermosa.



  • Monument 2: Height 1.63m (5.34 ft). Current location, Carlos Pellicer Regional Museum of Anthropology. Note the lack of fearsome grimace.



  • Monument 3: Height 1.98m (6.49 ft). Current Location, La Venta Park-Museum, Villahermosa.



  • Monument 4 : Height 2.26m (7.41 ft). With discoverer Dr. Mathew Stirling in 1939. Current location, La Venta Park-Museum, Villahermosa.


La Venta Stone Head No 9.

This unfinished stone head from La Venta shows the way the stones were carved from round balls.

(More about La Venta)



   The Tres Zapotes Heads.

The first rumours of large stone-heads in Tres Zapotes came from as early as 1858, but it was in 1938 that Dr. Stirling uncovered the first head, which was made from a single piece of basalt rock resting on a prepared foundation of unworked slabs of stone. He said of it that it was:

 '...unique amongst aboriginal American sculptures, it is remarkable for its realistic treatment. The features are bold and it is amazingly negroid in character'. (3)

The head was found at least 10 miles from the source of the stone and a long slab of stone which was found at the same site yielded a precise date of Nov 4th. 291 BC. As digging increased in south America other larger heads and earlier heads were found at sites such as La Venta, which began to reveal a chapter of history in the pre-Columbian Gulf of Mexico that was almost lost to us.


Monument A: Height 1.47m (4.82 ft). Carved from a block of Basalt. Current location, Community museum, Veracruz.


Monument F: Currently on Display, Labelled 'El Negro' in the Tuxteco Museum, Santiago Tuxtla, Veracruz.






Monument Q - Height 1.47m (4.82 ft). Carved from a distinctive porphyritic basalt and weighing over eight tons, this was the second colossal head to be discovered at Tres Zapotes. Current location Santiago Tuxtla Museum, Veracruz.

Image (Right): The rear of Monument Q showing Ethiopian style braided hair. This is one of the strongest arguments in favour of these monuments representing people of African origin.




   The San Lorenzo Heads.

Ten colossal stone heads representing heads of past and present rulers have been found at San Lorenzo. Evidence suggests that these heads were plastered and painted in bright colours. They were arranged in ensembles and set in a plaza paved with red sand and yellow gravel. Sarcophagus-shaped thrones linked living kings with their ancestors. (5)

Monument 1: This head dates from 1,200 to 900 B.C. and is 2.9 metres high and 2.1 metres wide. Current location, Museo de Antropolog´┐Ża de Xalapa in Xalapa, Veracruz.



Monument 2: 2.69m (8.82 ft) tall. Current location, National Museum of anthropology, Mexico city.


Monument 3: 1.78m (5.84 ft) tall. Current location, Jalapa Museum of Anthropology.



Monument 4: Height 1.78m (5.84 ft). Current location, Japala Museum of Anthropology.

Monument 5: 1.86m (6.1 ft) high. current location, Jalapa Museum of Anthropology.


Monument 61: Height 2.2m (7.22 ft). Current location, Jalapa Museum of Anthropology.


Also from San Lorenz, this unusual Stela-Head. Current location, Jalapa Museum.


  • The Rancho Cobata Head.


(An African presence in Pre-Columbian America)

(The Guatemalan Stone Heads)

(The Argentinean Stone Head)

(The Costa Rica Stone Balls)

(Top-50 Stones)

(The Olmecs)

(Mexico Homepage)

(Pre-Columbian Americas Homepage)




1). Coe, Michael; Snow, Dean; Benson, Elizabeth; (1986) Atlas of Ancient America; Facts on File, New York.
2). http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread445497/pg1
3). Ivan Van Sertima. African presence in Early America. 1992. Transaction Publishers.
4). http://www.aztec-history.com/olmec-civilization.html
5). http://archaeology.about.com/od/saterms/qt/san_lorenzo.htm


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