Measuring 5 feet tall and 3.6 feet wide, a “spectacular” carving of three seated jaguars was recently uncovered in central Mexico. The cats were carved into a stone monolith that is reminiscent of Olmec carvings. While many pictographs and figures of cats have been uncovered through the years, the Triad of Felines is unique in that it profiles the animals in a sitting position. According to the National Geographic, the three cats “also appear to have supernatural qualities such as flaming eyebrows and stylized mouths that are reminiscent of traditional Olmec masks.” Scientists believe the carving is circa 700 B.C. and they are calling it the Triad of Felines. It was located approximately 60 miles south of Mexico City at Chalcatzingo. History of Cat Carvings
Cat carvings have been uncovered at Chalcatzingo since 1935 and this is the latest in approximately 40 large stone carvings. While it's difficult to determine exactly what type of big cats these are, the consensus is jaguars, although they may also be mountain lions.
"One of our hypotheses is that, in the time from 800 to 500 B.C., there was a frieze along the entire Cerro Chalcatzingo," or "Chalcatzingo hill," project member Mario Cordova Tello, an archaeologist with Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), said in a statement.
The jaguar has long been worshipped by Mesoamerican cultures due to the threat they posed to humans. Because of this threat, they are often depicted in religion and mythology, and depicted in art. While jaguars often appear in Olmec religion, their exact significance is still unknown. Throughout pre-Columbian Central and South America, the jaguar has long been a symbol of power and strength. Jaguars are "apex predators" and therefore viewed as one of the most powerful animals indigenous to the region. The Mayan viewed these panthers as a way to commune between the living and dead, as well as a way to protect the royal household. Rulers often incorporated the Mayan word for jaguar into their names as a way to demonstrate their power. The Aztec shared this image of Panthera Onca, which was considered to be the totem animal of the powerful deity Tezcatlipoca. They even formed an elite warrior class called The Jaguar Knights.
Assembling Triad of Cats
Over three months was required to restore and assemble the 11 fragments that make up this amazing cat trio carving. Scientists believe it may have been part of a “spiritual billboard” designed to show people the way during pilgrimages to far away lands. While the frequency with which the jaguar is seen in Olmec remains, it's obvious that they were revered as powerful animals. Unfortunately, not a lot is known about the Olmec religion, and anthropologists are still attempting to unearth more secrets of this important culture.