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SCULPTING THE PAST IN PRECLASSIC MESOAMERICA: OLMEC STONE MONUMENTS AND THE PRODUCTION OF SOCIAL MEMORY

  • Jillian Mollenhauer (a1)

Abstract

Scholars encountering the monolithic sculptures of the Gulf lowland Olmec since the early twentieth century have frequently employed the term “monument” to describe these works. Often the word has been applied in reference to the formal qualities of the sculptures as well as to their antiquity. The function of monuments as sites of public remembering, however, has never been fully explored in relation to these works. This article discusses the evidence for, and implications of, viewing certain Olmec sculptures as public monuments intended to generate, transform, and erase the social memory of Olmec populations. Case studies of sculptural contexts suggest that such monuments were subject to diachronic transpositions and transformations in order to affect shifts in the collective memory over time. They remain as physical testaments to the maneuverings of Olmec elites within complex and ever-changing power relations that relied on the process of memory-making as part of the political stratagem.

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Email correspondence to: jmollenh@msudenver.edu

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SCULPTING THE PAST IN PRECLASSIC MESOAMERICA: OLMEC STONE MONUMENTS AND THE PRODUCTION OF SOCIAL MEMORY

  • Jillian Mollenhauer (a1)

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