The Dawn of Olmec Civilization


Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 6:00pm



The hearth of Olmec civilization is located in the tropical lowlands of Mexico’s southern Gulf Coast region, in the majestic archaeological site of San Lorenzo. The inhabitants of this first Olmec capital developed a distinctive geopolitical territory and managed complex trade systems. The Olmec also created spectacular earthen architecture and magnificent stone sculpture—including the famous Colossal Heads—that reflect their stratified social organization and centralized political system backed by religion and directed by hereditary rulers. Building on the pioneering work of Matthew Stirling in the 1940s and Michael Coe in the 1960s, Ann Cyphers will discuss recent investigations at San Lorenzo that shed new light on the dawn of Olmec civilization almost 4,000 years ago.

Established in 2017, the Eduardo Matos Moctezuma Lecture Series honors distinguished scholars and artists whose work advances our understanding of Mexican anthropology, archaeology, and history. The series is named after renowned archaeologist Eduardo Matos in honor of his lifelong contributions to illuminate Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past. This is the first time in Harvard University’s history that a Mexican scholar has been honored in this fashion. Ann Cyphers will be the sixth speaker in the series, which has included Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, Alfredo López Austin, Javier Garciadiego, Diana Magaloni Kerpel, and Juan Villoro. The lecture series was created under the intellectual stewardship of Harvard Professor Davíd Carrasco and is made possible by the generosity of José Antonio Alonso Espinosa.

Co-sponsored by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard Divinity School, the Moses Mesoamerican Archive, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.  

Advance registration required. Please note that registration closes 30 minutes prior to the event start time.