The Dawn of Olmec Civilization


Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 6:00pm to 7:00pm



Speaker, Ann Cyphrus, sitting in front of a giant artifact.

Ann Cyphers, Archaeologist, Institute of Anthropological Research National Autonomous University of Mexico

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 geo-political 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.

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Watch the livestream here.

This lecture will offer both Spanish subtitles for spoken English, and English subtitles for spoken Spanish.

Esta conferencia tendrá subtítulos en español para las secciones en inglés, y en inglés para las de español.

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma Lecture Series

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, and the Moses Mesoamerican Archive

This lecture series was created with the generosity of José Antonio Alonso Espinosa to honor the world-renowned Mexican archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. Ann Cypher’s talk is the fifth in the series by major Mexican scholars including Matos Moctezuma, Alfredo López Austin, Javier Garciadiego, Diana Magaloni, and Juan Villoro. This series marks the first time in Harvard's history that a Mexican has been honored in this fashion.

About the Speaker

Ann Cyphers is a senior researcher at the Institute of Anthropological Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She is a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. Her principal research interest is the development of the early cultures of Mesoamerica, particularly the Olmec civilization. Her interdisciplinary research has changed the face of Olmec archaeology with its integrated and long-term perspective that has emphasized themes such as the origins of civilization and urban life, ancient productive strategies, and trade and transport systems.