Guatemala can be proud of its cultural heritage – temples, monuments, carvings, and old cultures are something very specific to this country.
All Guatemalan examples of art are the result of turbulent history. The people of Guatemala, who experienced many difficult moments through the history, used different forms of art to express themselves. Many of those monuments are covered with the veil of mystery.
There is the possibility that this country was the place where Mesoamerican culture was born. Uncommon obsidian arrowheads confirm that the first Guatemalan settlements were built about 18,000 BCE.
This is the place where the forms of agrarian productions developed for the first time in South America, as well as the place where the Mayan Empire reached its glory.
Mayan culture left an extremely valuable archeological heritage.
However, of all those incredible monuments, maybe the Olmec colossal heads are the most intriguing. The Olmec lived in the southwest part of Mexico, about 1500 BCE. They were the masters of first colossal monuments – temples, pyramids, altars, statues. Sadly, we don’t know enough about their culture.
There are 17 colossal heads and they are all very similar. They portray male faces, probably of some important Olmec individuals, with fleshy cheeks, flat noses, and slightly crossed eyes – characteristics that now can be seen in their descendants. These sculptures were excavated from the Mountains of Sierra de los Tuxtlas de Veracruz. They probably ended up under the ground at about 900BCE.
Padilla’s colossal head
There was one special head, the head that was different from other excavated carved stone heads. It was found in the 1950’s by a man who owned a piece of land in Guatemala. He sent a photo of his discovery to Dr. Rafael Padilla Lara in 1987. The face the monument was depicting was completely different than other carved faces. This face had thin, pronounced lips, shallow cheeks, a large piqued nose, and it was upturned.
According to some authors, David Childress among them, this head proves that pre-colonial cultures of South America were familiar with Caucasian faces. If this was not the case, then this statue is an example of counterfeit.
Padilla’s photo is everything that is left of this monument, because militant revolutionaries destroyed the monument in the 70’s, before Padilla got the chance to examine it.
There was a detail about this head that was quite unusual and that most researchers hadn’t paid their attention to.
The head in the photo irresistibly reminds of the faces from the remote Easter Island. This little island is located about 3,500 km west of the Pacific coast of South America.
Stone faces of Easter Island were made by primitive local race, Rapa Nui. Previously it was thought that they could not have been in contact with pre-colonial cultures of South America, but recently, that assumption was reconsidered. The new explanation says that islanders crossed 3,500 km between their island and South America, probably because of the lack of resources on their island.
This theory is supported by DNA results, which confirm that people of Easter Island were in contact with pre-colonial cultures.
Additionally, there are similarities between sorts of sweet potato from these two geographical locations. That is also a proof of their contact.
There is a possibility that these cultures exchanged their experiences and knowledge about crafts, artistic methods and approaches.
When we take all this into account, we can see that it is very likely that Padilla’s colossal head, was actually an Olmec replica of monuments from Easter Island, despite the fact that the Olmec people never had the chance to visit that distant island.