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Unformatted text preview: Ramon Covarrubias 1 The Were-jaguar of the Rubber People After analyzing Olmec art, it is impossible to overlook the presence of the jaguar in the Olmec civilization. Among the thousands of pieces of Olmec art, numerous masks of the indigenous people show a very intimate connection between these natives and the jaguar. The association is obvious as many of the recovered human masks show varying levels of feline features. As a result of the jaguar characteristics, archeologists decide to assign them to a new category; the were-jaguar kind. For instance, the Olmec were-jaguar mask (plates 30, 30b, 30c at the end) is the pure reflection of the venerated connection of the human and the feline in the mind of the Olmecs that is shown in the depiction of jaguar in Olmec art. In the Olmec world the significance of the jaguar goes far beyond than that of any other Mesoamerican culture as it transcends from a god- follower relationship into one of the main religious, social-political and economic central motifs that influenced the whole of the Olmec. The depiction of the jaguar in the Olmec world often takes the form of masks. Plate 30 is an Olmec mask intended to exemplify the sacred relationship between the jaguar and the Olmecs. The mask is a representation of an Olmec jade artifact of a height of 20.8 cm and a width of 19.9 cm. It belongs to the Olmec and it is dated from 900-300 B.C, period known as Middle Pre-Classic (Taube 2004, 147). Despite the Ramon Covarrubias 2 original greenish coloration of the jadeite stone that is initially used to make the mask, its current color is a combination of brown and green as result of the deterioration over time. The mask has evident human characteristics such as the ears, the forehead and the nose. However, the mask also has almond-shaped eyes, and an everted upper lip that reveals an upper gum ridge that is divided in half, forming a v-shaped cleft in the middle, and the corners of the mouth are downward in the form of a snarl. These non- human traits resemble the facial characteristics of the jaguar. Another feature of the mask is how at base of the better-preserved right ear there is a small circular pendant. Despite that one of the two ornaments is completely destroyed, the remaining earring still has the original form of a circle with two horizontal carved lines. Olmec jewelry is not known for being oversized (Taube 2004, 199) that is why the relatively small size of the pendant suggests Olmec properties. The mask also has openings in the place of the pupils and nostrils as well as four more holes, one above each ear and one below each...
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- Winter '08