Olmec colossal heads (-1500 to -400) were huge statues of heads made by the Olmecs, the earliest known civilization of Mexico. So far 17 have been discovered. Most were made between -1500 and -1000, back in the time of Moses, Troy and King Tut. One of the most striking things about them is that they look like black people!
The heads are 1.5 to 3.5 metres in size and weigh between 5 to 50 tons. They were probably painted. Most are flat in the back. They are made of basalt from mountains that are 150 km away and were somehow transported without wheels or beasts of burden. Some were made from older monuments or thrones. They probably took several years to make. Only a ruler would have had the wherewithal to have one made.
Each one is meant to look like a particular person, someone who would have been known to the artist. They are probably statues of Olmec rulers.
What looks like a helmet is a headdress that in real life would have been made of cloth and animal hide. Some wear the same headdress, maybe because they were from the same dynasty.
They look like black people: Because Olmec civilization seemed to have come out of nowhere and had things like mummies and pyramids and because its rulers look black, Ivan van Sertima says they are proof that Olmec civilization came from Nubia.
Further, one study of ancient Mexican skulls showed that something like 15% of the people were at least part black. Some have noticed how Olmec writing is like certain African writing.
A cool idea but probably not true:
- Even to this day there are people in that part of Mexico who look just like those statues. No one suspects them of being part African.
- There are smaller pieces of Olmec artwork where people look “Chinese” or even “white”.
- As more is found out about the Olmecs the clearer it becomes that they grew out of their own time and place, that they did not come from outside the region. Their knowledge of maize, a plant then unknown outside of North America and upon which their civilization was built, is a good example.
- Genetic studies show no sign of a high degree of African ancestry. The high rate at which people there died of European diseases after the Spanish arrived points to the same.
Van Sertima’s work has all the signs of being pseudoscience:
- making facts fit conclusions, not the other way round
- lack of mainstream support by experts in the field
- lack of peer review
- sensational claims
- cool ideas that appeal to people outside the field
That does not prove him wrong, of course, but it does not look promising.
The colossal heads do look black, but because everyone comes from Africa and because of genetic drift, “black” features can appear anywhere, especially in places that have been cut off from most of the world for a long time – like Mexico.
– Abagond, 2012.