Ancient Guatemalan Sculptors Knowingly Crafted Magnetic 'Potbelly' Statues

Potbelly sculptures on display screen near Guatemala’s Pacific coast.

Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0

Ancient stone “potbelly” sculptures on display screen in a park in Guatemala are allured on specific areas, recommending the pre-Columbian civilization that made them had an useful understanding of magnetism

Eleven of these sculptures of huge heads and distorted bodies, called “potbellies” since of their unique rotund shapes, are on display screen in a plaza in the town of La Democracia, near Guatemala’s Pacific coast. They were set up there in the 1970 s after being brought from ancient websites in the neighboring Monte Alto area.

Guatemalans are believed to have actually developed these potbelly sculptures more than 2,000 years earlier, which would date them to the Late Preclassic duration of Mesoamerican civilizations. Previous research studies of the sculptures had actually recommended numerous had magnetic abnormalities on their surface areas. [The 25 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

In the brand-new research study, a group led by researchers at Harvard University studied the potbellies with both a portable magnetometer and a portable scanning magnetometer that might be repaired to the sculptures to offer comprehensive magnetic mapping of their surface areas.

They discovered that 10 of the 11 sculptures had considerable magnetic abnormalities and 6 of them revealed strong magnetic abnormalities that were most likely developed by lightning strikes while the rocks were still in the ground.

What’s more, a lot of the huge heads and bodies of the ancient sculptures were sculpted to make the magnetic abnormalities line up with either the sculptures’ ideal cheeks or their tummy buttons– recommending that ancient carvers understood how to identify magnetism, which they had actually chosen magnetic stones to highlight these parts of the body.

The finding provides strength to a theory that early Mesoamerican civilizations learnt about the appealing residential or commercial properties of magnetism, and how to identify it with magnetic items like lodestones suspended on a string– perhaps even prior to magnetism is initially understood to have actually been explained in China about 2,700 years ago

It is not understood for specific why those body parts were selected, however it’s most likely that the magnetism of the sculptures added to their cultural impact.

” Potbellies might have represented the forefathers of the gentility and offered physical type to their heredity-based claim on power,” the scientists composed in their research study. “If this analysis is right, the capability of potbellies to deflect, significantly for the most part, a suspended lodestone would have served to enhance their message of living ancestral connection.”

Art historian Julia Guernsey, a teacher at the University of Texas at Austin who has actually composed a book about Guatemalan potbelly sculptures, is passionate about the brand-new research study.

” Their outcomes talk to the significance of stone in ancient Mesoamerica and its symbolic residential or commercial properties, however likewise to ancient understandings of bodies and beliefs that specific crucial functions– like faces or stomachs and navels– were especially powerful or effective,” she stated.

The research study will be released in the June concern of the Journal of Archaeological Science

Initial short article on Live Science