1. The earliest Mesoamerican art and architecture to combine ideological complexity, craft, and permanence was that of the Olmecs, whose civilization flourished between about 1500 B.C. and 100 B.C. The early Olmecs established major ceremonial centers along the rich lowlands of the modern Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. At distant Teopantecuanitlan, the Olmecs established a sacred precinct, the first monumental evidence of the Olmecs in the highlands. But the Olmecs had an advanced social and economic system, with networks for commerce extending far to the west and south. The fertile gulf plain probably allowed for an agricultural surplus, controlled by only a handful of individuals. From the art and architecture of their ceremonial centers (we know too little about Olmec domestic life to call their sites cities), it is clear that for the Olmecs, social stratification was sufficiently advanced for their society to place great importance on the records of specific individuals, particularly in the form of colossal heads (enormous stone sculptures of human heads and faces).
2. Long before modern radiocarbon dating testified to the antiquity of this culture, archaeologists and art historians had become aware of the power of Olmec art through individual objects. Some even identified the Olmec culture as the oldest of Mesoamerican civilizations, perhaps a mother culture from which all others derived, as the art historian Miguel Covarrubias once thought. Eventually the antiquity of Olmec culture was confirmed, and today many important elements of Mesoamerican art and architecture can be seen to have had a probable Olmec origin: ball courts, pyramids, portraiture, and mirrors. Some later Mesoamerican deities probably derive from Olmec gods, and even the famous Maya calendar was already in use by peoples in the Olmec area at the dawn of Maya civilization.
3. One of the first important Olmec objects to come to modern attention was the Kunz axe, acquired in the 1860s in Oaxaca, Mexico. The ceremonial axe puzzled and intrigued investigators for years because on the one hand, it was clearly neither Aztec nor Maya, the best-known ancient Mesoamerican cultures, and in fact it had no features that could be linked with any known civilization, while on the other hand, it had surely been made in Mesoamerica in antiquity.
4. The axe exhibits many qualities of the style we now call Olmec: precious blue-green translucent jade, worked to reveal a figure in both two and three dimensions. More than half the axe is devoted to the creature's facean open, toothless mouth, and closely set, slanting eyeswhich has often been likened to the face of a howling human infant. The creature's hands are worked in lower relief, and in them he grasps a miniature version of himself. Feet and toes are indicated only by incision (carved lines), and incision also marks the face, ears, and upper body, perhaps to suggest tattooing, ear ornaments, and a tunic. For over two millennia this large, precious axe was presumably kept as a treasure or heirloom. It was not until 1955, after several seasons of excavation at La Venta had produced many fine jade objects and a convincing series of radiocarbon dates in the first millennium B.C., that objects such as the Kunz axe were at last understood by scholars to embody the principles of the first great art style of Mesoamerica.
5. Early scholars of the Olmec style noticed a pattern of imagery repeated on many of the carved stone objects. Many howling baby faces were found, and other faces seemed to combine the features of humans and jaguars (large cats). Today, while the presence of jaguar imagery is still acknowledged, scholars have discovered that aspects of many other tropical rainforest fauna can be identified in the carvings. The caiman (a kind of alligator), eagle, toad, jaguar, and snake all appear in the Olmec supernatural repertoire. Anthropologist Peter David Joralemon has suggested that most of the motifs and images can be allocated to a few Olmec deities. The paw-wing motif, for example, can be shown to be an element of the winged dragon, itself perhaps derived from the eagle and caiman. This whole intricate symbolic code appears to have been in use from the first appearance of the Olmecs, and to have been employed consistently for a thousand years.
1..The word that in the passage refers to
A. Mesoamerican art and architecture
B. the ideological complexity, craft, and permanence
C. the earliest civilization
D. the permanent art and architecture
2..The word surplus in the passage is closest in meaning to
B. excess quantity
3..According to paragraph 1, which of the following is true about the ceremonial centers established by the Olmecs
A. The centers served as the burial places of ancient Olmec rulers.
B. The inhabitants of each center had little or no contact with those in other centers.
C. The centers featured major works of art and architecture that were made to last.
D. The first and most important centers were built in the highlands.
4..Paragraph 1 supports which of the following ideas about Olmec society
A. Major artists and successful traders had roughly equal status.
B. The most important members of Olmec society resided in the highlands.
C. More people were engaged in producing monumental works of art than were engaged in agriculture.
D. There was a well developed social structure in which some individuals held more power than others.
5..The author put the word Maya in quotation marks in order to indicate that
A. few Mesoamericans were familiar with the Maya calendar
B. the calendar commonly attributed to the Maya was not actually developed by them
C. the names of Mesoamerican gods were included in the Maya calendar
D. it is doubtful that the Olmec and the Maya used the same calendars
6..According to paragraph 2, how was the antiquity of Olmec culture confirmed
A. Through close study of the Maya calendar
B. By archaeologists' success at tracing later Mesoamerican gods back to those of the Olmec
C. By radiocarbon dating of Olmec objects
D. By comparing different references to an ancient mother culture
7..Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
A. Because the Kunz axe could not be linked with known Mesoamerican cultures of antiquity, investigators concluded that it was neither Aztec nor Maya.
B. The ceremonial axe puzzled and intrigued investigators because it was neither Aztec nor Maya, nor was it from any other ancient Mesoamerican civilization.
C. On the one hand the ceremonial axe was puzzling because it was not Aztec or Maya, and on the other hand it was intriguing because no other Mesoamerican culture made ceremonial axes.
D. The Kunz axe puzzled investigators for years because, although it was clearly made in ancient Mesoamerica, it could not be attributed to any known Mesoamerican culture.
8..The word exhibits in the passage is closest in meaning to
9..The word embody in the passage is closest in meaning to
10..It can be inferred from paragraph 4 that the author provides a very detailed description of the Kunz axe because
A. the Kunz axe is more like later Mesoamerican art than it is like Olmec art
B. the Kunz axe is a characteristic example of Olmec artistic style and principles
C. the Kunz axe is the single most important and valuable piece of Olmec art so far discovered
D. the face of the creature represented on the Kunz axe resembles a human infant
11..In paragraph 5, the author uses the example of the paw-wing motif in order to illustrate
A. how Olmec images may be related to a few Olmec deities
B. why jaguar imagery is the most important of Olmec animal imagery
C. the importance of the paw-wing motif in cultures before the Olmec
D. how images of animals from beyond the rainforest were represented in Olmec art
12..According to paragraph 5, which of the following is true about the Olmec symbolic code
A. It included only animals that have paws or wings.
B. It did not change significantly from one century to the next.
C. It was not strongly connected to Olmec religion.
D. It developed gradually over a thousand-year period.
13..Look at the four squares that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage.
But these opinions lacked proof.
Where would the sentence best fit Click on a square to add the sentence to the passage.
14..Drag your choices to the spaces where they belong. To review the passage, click on View Text.
A. Between 1500 B.C. and 100 B.C., the Olmecs developed complex ceremonial centers, an extensive agricultural and trading economy, and a highly distinctive art.
B. Early in their history, the Olmec left the fertile gulf plain and moved to Teopantecuanitlan.
C. The frequent reappearance of Olmec images in the art of the Maya and Aztecs suggests that the Olmecs gave rise to these later civilizations.
D. The Kunz axe, once linked with Maya culture after being found at an ancient Maya site, was eventually attributed to Olmec artists.
E. Many cultural innovations are now attributed to the Olmecs that were once attributed to other Mesoamerican cultures, including the calendar used by the Maya.
F. Olmec art involved a complex symbolic code, including various animal images and the howling baby seen on the Kunz axe and elsewhere, that was used consistently for a thousand years.