Freedom8 Mesoamerica


La Venta is located on an island, in a sea level coastal swamp, near the Tonala River, about 18 miles inland from the Gulf. The main part of the site is a linear complex of clay constructions stretching out for 1.5 miles in a north south direction which had been extensively excavated before its desecration by air strips, bulldozers, and parking lots. The major feature at La Venta is a huge, volcano shaped pyramid of clay, 110 feet high, the largest of its period in Mexico. To the north are two long, low mounds on either side of the center line, of the pyramid, and a low mound in the center of these. Then one comes to a broad rectangular court or plaza which was once surrounded by a fence of basalt columns, each about 7 feet tall, set side by side in the top of a low wall made of adobe bricks. Finally along the center line is a large terraced clay mound. Some believe the layout of this portion represents a gigantic abstract jaguar mask. In its hay day the site must have been impressive, for different colored clays were used for floors, and the sides of platforms were painted in solid colors of red, yellow, and purple. Scattered in the plazas fronting these structures were a large group of monuments sculptured from basalt. Among these were the Colossal heads, of which four were found at La Venta. Large stelae of the same material were also found.
La Venta was deliberately destroyed in ancient times. Its fall was certainly violent, as twenty-four of the forty sculptured monuments were intentionally mutilated. This occurred at the end of the Late Pre-classic period about 300 B.C.