Pit and Groove Work among the Olmec-style Monuments of the Gulf Coast Lowlands

Arnaud F. Lambert
Paris Monographs in American Archaeology


One of the most interesting issues in the study of Olmec-style art, especially in the southern Gulf Coast lowlands, has been the debate surrounding the significance of the pits and grooves which appear on many of the Olmec-style monuments in this region.This study catalogs 58 Olmec-style monuments with documented instances of pit and groove work and evaluates previous interpretations of these enigmatic features based on the morphology of the pit and groove marks, the positioning of the markings on the monuments, and the contextual associations of the monuments vis-à-vis the local landscape. In light of this evidence, a model is proposed which places pit and groove work on Olmec-style monuments within a framework of cultural practices linked to rituals of rulershA, termination rituals, and charging rituals.