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Artist Veracruz Culture
Title Stela
Date 100 BCE - 250 CE
Medium limestone
Place of Origin Orizaba Region, Veracruz, Mexico
Culture Veracruz Culture
Catalog Number 1965.32
Collection Pre-Columbian Art Collection
Object Name Sculpture
Credit line Gift of Frederick R. Pleasants
Didactic Information This stone monument, called a stela, is a well-recognized sculpture identified with the cultural transition from the earlier Olmec tradition to later development of the Gulf Coast and Tajín cultures and the cultures of the Maya. With the decline of the Olmecs towards the end of the Formative era, a number of regional cultures with distinct styles of art appeared throughout Mesoamerica.

Throughout ceremonial centers in Mesoamerica, stela were typically placed in public places to commemorate important individuals and events such as conquests and alliances. The meaning of this stela, as yet undetermined, depicts a standing male figure who holds a tasseled spear or atlatl (dart thrower). He is bearded and wears a knotted loincloth and belt, large ear flares, and a beaded necklace. The knobs on his arms and legs may represent highly prized greenstones such as jade or other materials which likely defined his position and status in society.

At the base of the stela, a design of stepped frets and scrolls may be decorative elements associated with the earth and sky. The scrolls surround the stylized profile of an unnamed supernatural character with rectangular eyes, a black mouth, and a flat nose. The placement of the supernatural below the standing figure may form a link between the two, implying shared powers. It is thought that the incised designs on this early stela anticipate the development of well-established symbols associated with both the Tajín culture and the evolution of Maya imagery and text.

Pierre Matisse (1957), Illustrated, Indian Art of Mexico and Central America, Miguel Corrubias, 1957; Frederick Pleasants; Tucson Museum of Art 1965
Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Before Cortes", Catalogue #61, 1970