I haven't the faintest idea whether Professor Cook and the other critics are right or whether Xu and Chen are onto something with their Shang-Olmec connection. Further open-minded research is required to settle the issue but in the meantime I would like to draw attention to a small piece of evidence that Santha and I first became aware of when we visited the Mysteries of Ancient China Exhibition at the British Museum in early January 1997 and, more recently, when we visited Beijing's History Museum in March 1999. We were intrigued by artefacts from the sacrificial pits at Sanxingdui in Sichuan province. Including bronzes in the shape of human heads, fragments of gold, many jades and a large number of elephant tusks, these artefacts were discovered in 1986 and are the work of a previously unidentified high civilisation that flourished in Sichuan from around 1200 to 1000 BC.
|Mayan Chac Mask architectural Feature|
Of particular interest was an exhibit described as "Mask with ornamented forehead and protruding pupils". It is one of three large masks that were found in pit 2 at Sanxingdui. According to the British Museum's commentary (Mysteries of Ancient China. Page 69):
'the most startling features are the pupils of the eyes, which project on stalks... A further remarkable feature is the long upstanding projection rising from the nose of the mask. This projection is scroll-shaped, with an upright section coiled at the top and with a double loop at the bottom... The combination of the large ears, the protruding eyes and the tall quill makes this face completely fantastic.'
Is it a coincidence that almost exactly the same 'fantastic' and 'startling' features - bulging eyes and a long, curling projection to the nose - are found upon the Chac masks of the ancient Maya of Central America, the successors to the Olmecs? Chac masks were sometimes also incorporated as architectural features into Maya temples.
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