The Olmec: The Children of the Were-Jaguar

La Venta, Altar 5

Altar 5 from La Venta features a man emerging from the front holding a child. This part of the Altar is too badly worn to identify exactly what is happening, but it is similar in theme to other monuments where the child has been identified as a “Were-Jaguar” baby. On the near side of the Altar we can see two men holding children. All the characters have down-turned mouths which are thought to be symbolic of the Olmec jaguar deity. The nearest child has a headdress which is very similar to that of Monument 77, which features two crocodiles facing backwards.

© Robin Heyworth, 8th January 2002.

Altar 5 from the Olmec city of La Venta