Erowid References Database
“Ecce Bufo: The Toad in Nature and in Olmec Iconography”.
Current Anthropology. 1982 Jun;23(3):273-90.
"Mysterious," " Cryptic," and "Enigmatic": faced with the OLmec, archaeologists and art historians are forced to dip into the vocabulary of the hack writer. One hears of the Olmec
"problem," "puzzle," or "riddle." Covarrubias, in fact, remarked that the average anthropologist, confronted with "the Olmec problem," treats it as he would a coiled rattlesnake. And yet it was probably Covarrubias, for all his insight and
ardor, who perpetuated the arcanum that even today surrounds the Olmec. He speculated, in an era when speculation was decidedly out of vogue in American archaeological quarters, that the Olmec identified with the jaguar. Further, he proposed that the Olmec believed themselves descended from the union of a jaguar and a proto-Olmec woman—that the jaguar was their nagual or totemic animal and tutelary divinity. This pronouncement came at a time when there was a total theoretical vacuum, and it further commended itself by extending back in time one of the two cherished leitmotifs in Meso
american art. The idea that Mesoamerican iconography exhibited a rectilinear evolution was one of enormous appeal at a time when the various cultures were just beginning to be
schematized. So it was that the were-jaguar with its cleft brow and toothless gums became entrenched in the literature.
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