The Odd Little Purse in Olmec and Assyrian Art

Assyrian Relief with Winged Genius, Walters Art Museum, Wikimedia

Assyrian Relief with Winged Genius, Walters Art Museum, Wikimedia

File:La Venta Stele 19 (Delange).jpg

La Venta, Mexico, Olmec Monument 19, Photo by Audrey and George Delange, Wikimedia

B.L. Freeborn, February 2013

Once in a while it is nice to spot a co-incidence that leads us to new understanding. Illustrated here are two stone reliefs from two different hemispheres of the world. The Assyrian relief, (Ancient Iraq), on the left, is dated to 880 – 859 BC. The Olmec relief, (Ancient Mesoamerica), on the right, is dated to 1200 to 400 BC.

Notice these similarities between these detailed works of art. The giant carries in his hand a square purse. His hand is depicted with four fingers up. The Olmec man is holding a nearly identical purse with four fingers up as well.

The giant holds in his right hand a pine cone/egg shaped object. The Olmec man sits in an accentuated curved pose with feet outstretched to the rear in a manner which imitates the egg shape.

The giant is winged and strong. The feathered serpent wrapped around the man is equally fierce.

It is as if these two artists are using the exact same symbols to describe the same story. It might also be indisputable proof that these two cultures were in communication and contemporary to each other.

When used in Assyrian art it is said the purse holds magic dust. When depicted in Olmec art they postulate it contains herbs for getting high. Could it actually be a weight such as in a standard of measure? If it is, why would this become an important part of a story on two continents?

An actual purse has been found! See it here.


More on the Purse Image Here

5 thoughts on “The Odd Little Purse in Olmec and Assyrian Art

  1. Kristi says:

    This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which
    helped me. Thanks!

  2. Adrian Ojeda says:

    is there any solid answer as to why these bags occur in so many civilization artwork around the world?

    i always figured they were the sign of a civilization vs. a population. society vs. just inhabitants of a region.

    • Gilgemesh says:

      It is a weight like you put on scale. The “Ruler” of a land actually established the system of weights, lengths, and other measures which is the first step in regulating trade.

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