OLMEC ART AT DUMBARTON OAKS
Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, No. 2
by Karl A. Taube, 2004
See part 1
The Olmec of Early Formative San Lorenzo
Archaeological excavations by Michael Coe and Richard Diehl (1980) and Ann Cyphers (1997, 1999) at San Lorenzo, Veracruz, have provided crucial insights into the Early Formative development of the Olmec. Composed of the San Lorenzo plateau and the nearby sites of Tenochtitlán and Potrero Nuevo, San Lorenzo appears to have been the preeminent Early Formative Olmec center and quite possibly for then-contemporaneous Mesoamerica as a whole.
The Ojochi phase (1500–1350 B.C.) marks the earliest pottery at San Lorenzo, and is roughly contemporaneous with the Mokaya Barra phase ceramics, of which it Continue reading
OLMEC ART AT DUMBARTON OAKS
by Karl A. Taube, 2004
THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF OLMEC RESEARCH
In 1912, when Robert Woods Bliss acquired a fine Olmec statuette as his first Pre-Columbian object, little was known of the Olmec and their relation to other cultures of ancient Mesoamerica.
In fact, when Bliss purchased this jade sculpture (Pl. 8), it was described as Aztec. Decades earlier, José María Melgar y Serrano (1869) had published the first account of an Olmec monument, a colossal stone head, Monument A, at the site of Tres Zapotes, but Melgar y Serrano saw [African] features and linked the figure to Africa, rather than recognizing it as a product of Pre-Columbian peoples. Subsequently, Alfredo Chavero (1887) also Continue reading
Author: FANG CHAO-YING
Tshangs-dbyangs-rgya-mtsho 策養［倉洋］嘉錯 , Feb.11, 1683-1706, the Sixth Dalai Lama and poet, was born at Mon in southern Tibet. His full name was bLo-bzang-rig-hdsins （羅布藏仁青)-tshangs-dbyangs-rgya-mtsho.
The year before he was born the Fifth Dalai Lama had died. According to Tibetan law, the death of a Dalai Lama should be publicly announced, and high commissioners should then convene to select some new-born infant as the reincarnation of the deceased Lama. This infant is then educated in the monastery, Potala, and the Panchan Lama rules at the head of a body of regents, until the child comes of age. But this procedure was ignored in this instance as the Tipa (temporal administrator under the Dalai Lama), whose name was sDe-srid Sangsrgyas-rgya-mtsho, known in Continue reading
The El-Amarna Tablets
The El-Amarna tablets archive mostly diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian administration of Kemet and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru [=Amarna and capital Elam] during the New Kingdom. The letters were found in Egypt, to be found again in Kemet at the former capital of Akhetaten (Eighteenth dynasty).
The known tablets total 382.The correspondence spans a period of at most thirty years. Some of these letters, comprising cuneiform tablets mostly written in Akkadian – the regional language of diplomacy in Mesopotamia for the period – were first discovered circa 1887 by local Arabs.
The tablets have been scattered among museums: 202 or 203 are at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin; 80 in the British Museum; 49 or 50 at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo; seven at the Louvre; three at the Pushkin Museum; and one in the collection of the Oriental Institute in Chicago. Continue reading
Yoruba and Oyo
The African peoples who lived in Yorubaland, at least by the seventh century BCE, were not initially known as the Yoruba, although they shared a common ethnicity and language group. The historical Yoruba develop out of earlier (Mesolithic) Volta-Niger populations, by the 1st millennium BCE.
Oral history recorded under the Oyo Empire derives the Yoruba as an ethnic group from the population of the older kingdom of Ile-Ife. Ife was surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power between 1600 CE and 1800 CE. The nearby kingdom of Benin was also a powerful force between 1300 and 1850 CE.
Most of the city states were controlled by Obas, elected priestly monarchs, and councils made up of Oloyes, recognised leaders of royal, noble and, often, even common descent, who joined them in ruling over the kingdoms through a series of guilds and cults. Oyo had powerful, autocratic monarchs with almost total control, while in the Ijebu city-states, the senatorial councils were supreme and the Ọba served as something of a figurehead. In all cases, Yoruba monarchs were subject to the continuing approval of their constituents as a matter of policy. Continue reading
One of the earliest and most enduring scribal traditions in Mesoamerica developed in the central valleys of Oaxaca. Seemingly a logo-syllabic system since its inception, ca 600 BCE, several lines of evidence strongly suggest that the script encoded an ancient version of the contemporary Zapotecan family of languages.
The early societal uses of writing that can be elicited from what survives in the archaeological record were to promote group identities in the genesis of widening social inequalities, differential access to power, political centralization, and urbanism.
Through time, the script spread over a wide portion of southwestern Mesoamerica, at times imposed by groups with hegemonic interests, or appropriated by aspiring elites to form part of increasingly wider networks of interaction. These processes led the script in a trajectory that minimized phoneticism (confined as time went on to renditions of personal names and toponyms) but maximized logophonic, semantic, and hence multilingual encoding. Continue reading