‘Relief-Carved Bowl’ was created by the Olmec people in Mexico and Mesoamerica
from between twelfth century BC and ninth century BC (Doyle 2000). The ceramic
vessel is approximately four inches by six inches and manufactured from black
clay. This piece is detailed with a long-beaked bird and a scroll design in low
relief (Doyle 2000).
Olmec ‘people from land of rubber’ are revered as the Cultura Madre (Mother Culture) of Mexico because of the influence
of their cultural grandeur (Vigil 2002). The Olmec people resided in the lowland
region of Vera Cruz and along the eastern coast of Mexico as well as the modern
countries of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. According to Vigil the
period of Olmec culture was an era of rapid growth contributing to significant innovations
such as the advancement of the calendar, the creation of a writing system, and
the concept of zero. Other components of Olmec society involve stone temples
and pyramids, lavish clothing for elites, commercial networks, sea travel, and
defensive parapets. Enterprise between other native groups included markets and
ports of trade, astronomy, games, and an extraordinary complicity of cosmology.
Signature artifacts that blossomed from Olmec advancement and expansion were
basalt stone heads, as well as, tecomates
(gorged bowls) and anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures crafted from jade, obsidian
and volcanic rock (Khan N.A.). The basalt stone heads are evidence of the rise
of higher consciousness and spirituality, the Olmec recognized forces all
around them and within. Dual nature of realities were the teachings that frame
worked life in Olmec culture, “Mother-earth took on more meaning when joined by
father-sun” (Vigil pg. 24).
‘Relief-Carved Bowl’ and similar vessels were used for food storage and
cooking. I believe that the bird and scroll-like design are of religious value
and could be used during rituals or for status gain. This bowl seems as if it
could have served a utilitarian function however, because it is one of the few
pieces of ceramics left from this culture that also suggest it may have only
been used for decorative or spiritual purposes.