Segments in this Video

Replicating an Ancient Monument (04:29)


An international project to recreate an Olmec head is undertaken; the stones weigh several tons and come from volcanic mountains. Experts argue whether the civilization transported the rocks by land or water; engineer Peter Guthrie and Bob Loew discuss rail designs.

Project Onset (03:36)

Loew is alone to transport a monumental stone 100 miles; he fashions an A frame to direct it onto a wooden sledge built on Guthrie's designs. Sculptor Glen Williams arrives and assesses the massive rock he plans to carve using Olmec methods.

Olmec Art (03:23)

Archaeologist Ann Cyphers works at San Lorenzo's ceremonial site; she discovered a "Colossal Head" in 1994, one of only 17 ever found. Williams joins her to inspect the finest carved giant heads and sculptures; he marvels at Olmec ability to sculpt with stone tools.

Ritual Culture (03:40)

The first American civilization was the Olmec. Archaeologist Ponciano Ortiz discovered 3,000 year old wooden heads in a remote Mexican fishing village as well as evidence of ceremonial sacrifice of unborn and newborn babies.

Time Deficit (04:38)

Williams laments the hardness of stone and feels it will take longer to sculpt an Olmec head. Loew and laborers struggle to push the rock onto the sledge and center it. They have five days left to accomplish their tasks.

Significance and Project Struggles (07:36)

Cyphers believes the Olmec heads are portraits of ancient rulers; she asserts the length and weight of the rocks as a way of showing a monarch's power. Williams tests various sculpting tools. Loew devises roller rails to move his stone; he and his team move it one meter.

Trial and Error (04:30)

On the sixth day of the project, Loew repairs his roller rail transport system and heads his stone down the slope; it gains speed and slides off. Williams recruits help for rock carving; he and his team succeed in shaping an eyebrow.

Shifting Focus (07:45)

With three days left to transport a stone to the village site, Loew concentrates on floating methods; he and his team design bamboo rafts and lash canoes onto them. Ortiz has recently found 3,000 year old rubber in the area; he concludes the Olmec used the substance as waterproofing.

Unsuccessful Project (07:02)

Loew and his team finish the raft, using roller rails and rope pulleys to shift a massive stone onto it. They struggle and fail to push the craft from the river bank. Williams discovers a softer type rock to carve and believes the Olmec would have used it.

Credits: Olmec Heads (00:52)

Credits: Olmec Heads

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Secrets Of The Ancients: Olmec Heads

Part of the Series : Secrets Of The Ancients
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Over 3,000 ago, in the fertile jungles of lowland Mexico, the first civilization in the Americas was born. Five hundred years before Rome was founded, the Olmec were building great cities with pyramids and ball courts. Considered by most archaeologists to be the “mother culture” of Mexico, the roots of the later Maya and Aztec cultures lie with the Olmec.

Length: 49 minutes

Item#: FPT185533

ISBN: 978-1-64867-001-5

Copyright date: ©1999

Closed Captioned

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