Olmec Jadeite Mask…

by forrest fenn

Many of the objects in my collection are significant in a very small depiction of world history. Most are more interesting than they are important. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to remember that each piece represents who we once were in a time that used to be, and that I will never be anything more than its temporary custodian. 


olmecfaceFor a thousand years, beginning about 1500 BCE, the Olmec people flourished in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico. They were the ancestors of all subsequent Mesoamerican civilizations.

Their artists were famous for carving well-fed looking human faces in stone. Some as large as 20 tons still stand where they were made. You can see them if you go down there.

The Olmecs especially liked Jadeite. They sawed it by drawing a taut string back and forth and using abrasive powders to cut, a process that could take years. Jadeite was the stone of the heavens, they thought, and when they carved it their hands were guided by the gods.


Nephrite and jadeite are the two types of Jade. A rocksmith once told me they were so alike that a layman couldn’t tell the difference. But he could, he said, because one is colder than the other. He just couldn’t remember which was the coldest.

This 9-inch jadeite mosaic mask has a commanding appearance, and his splaying ears balance the temperament of his face. The rounded chin emphasizes his gaping mouth, and the wide-set eyes add depth to the overall expression. Its features make obvious the charismatic power of the wearer, who probably was a ruler or a shaman.

Such masks were considered images of transformation. The color green was associated with growth, longevity, renewal, and rejuvenation after death.


I acquired this mask from a woman who sold antiques. She had 8 white St. Bernards and about 200 white pigeons. That was okay, but she poured beer in zip lock bags to save space in her purse. I thought she was a little weird. Her personality grated me and my dread of visiting her always seemed appropriate. Sometimes I forgot when I arrived why I went there in the first place. Maybe it was because leaving her was so much fun. Some folks think I’m weird too. What do you think?

83 thoughts on “Olmec Jadeite Mask…

  1. If you are weird, it is in a good way! 🙂

    I’ve never heard of the Olmec people. I grew up in San Diego and had some exposure to Mexico. Very interesting, and a very cool mask!

  2. Finely Wired Mr. Fenn, but not Weird. Thank you for another marvelous gaze. I love the line “But he could, he said, because one is colder than the other. He just couldn’t remember which one was the coldest.” Now Mr. Fenn….are you poking a llittle fun at some of the overly confident dialogue on this here blog?

    • I find the official video for Aerosmith’s song “Jaded” to be interesting…some parts…especially @2:07. It’s on YouTube.

      “You think that’s where it’s at, but is that where it’s supposed to be?”

  3. I had never heard of the Olmec civilization so thanks again for introducing it to us.

    That antique dealer does sound weird, but I think we all are in one way or another! 🙂

  4. Origins of the word “weird” Spelled originally Wyrd….interesting if Wyoming is your look see spot.

    originally meant ‘having the power to control destiny’

    deja vu…..just was talking about that sort of thing with someone today.

    So, I would say in my incomplete sentences way of speaking….yup, pretty much.

    • Jade is the state gem of Wyoming. Interesting. I feel like I’m on a sinking ship and each time the ship tilts to one side…me and a thousand other people scatter over to the other side.

      • Just had a funny thought…his next collectible will be the boat plug from the Titanic.

        Would be funny to come up with Faux/Funny collectibles that Forrest probably owns.

        • I find it interesting that his collection goes beyond Native American artifacts. Wonder what the different a between Mayans and Olmec, they seem to be in the same region and jade is a popular stone in that area. Jade can be bought all across that area. We purchased and jade necklace that I really loved but the price was a little higher than I should have paid but after awhile it grew on me.

  5. Dude, you dumped a 42 pound treasure worth millions somewhere in the wilderness and wrote a poem about it so other people could go chasing after it; yeah, your weird. 🙂

    Then there are all the rest of us weirdo’s running around with bizarre and crazy ideas about your poem looking for that 42 lbs and none of us are average enough to find it.

  6. Frequent encounters with weirdos do tend to promote good tactical planning and exit strategy. Weird in the sense of otherworldly and mysterious, but not in the common sense of abnormal or strange.

  7. Dear Forrest,
    I think you are not so weird but really funny. IMO I know how much there’s no need for an Equal Rights Amendment. Funny silly.

  8. Weird?? Not a chance. Shrewd, crafty, and intelligent. Yes!
    And lets not forget visionary.
    Aside from all of that I would like to know how the pieces of jade were bonded together, only a few modern bonding agents could withstand the test of time that ceremonial mask has seen.

  9. I like the weird ones they make life more fun. 🙂

    Wouldn’t life be awful without weird people ? Indian tribes thought the strange people were special , closer to the gods.

    I was reading recently that Jadeite is becoming rare so it may surpass jade in value eventually.

    For the record, I am weird ! LOL 🙂

  10. F, you are not wierd. You are unique… uniquely you. If someone doesn’t understand f, that’s not your fault. I love the mask. You could have easily said the mask itself is brown and I’d have believed you. Am I wierd because I’m colorblind? If anyone thinks I’m wierd, then they just don’t understand me.

  11. Dear Forrest,

    “The word weird, originally a noun, dates back to Old English, where it meant fate or destiny….The modern adjectival sense, meaning strange or uncanny, dates only to the early nineteenth century. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary only records it as an adjective, “no longer in use,” meaning skilled in witchcraft.”

    This from Wordorigins.org, a really fun web site.

    I’d say that by hiding the treasure you’ve changed the destiny of many people (such as the gentleman who hadn’t spoken to his brother in eleven years) and therefore proven that you’re weird. But not quite as weird as the woman who kept beer in a zip lock. Of course, as you’ve said, if you have money then you’re not weird, you’re “eccentric.”

    I’d love to hear about some of the fakes you’ve bought–intentionally or unintentionally. One comedian came back from Rome saying that someone had offered to sell him the menu from the Last Supper, but he couldn’t afford it, so he bought the receipt from the Last Breakfast instead. It read, “12 omelettes, 12 orange juice, one tea and toast.” As the comedian pointed out, “You know if they split the bill evenly, that last guy got screwed.”

    I’m delighted that you are contributing more to Dal’s blog and communicating via Jenny Kile’s website. Your postings are always so entertaining. Please keep them coming!

  12. Well Fenn, like you said, the difference between being a kook and being eccentric is money. So you’re not weird you’re eccentric.

    And besides, being weird is relative…..For example, being one of the very few logical, rational, grounded in reality, sane individuals on this site makes me weird. Now pass the pretzel powder, it’s in the vacuum pack next to the beer baggie.

    • Hello, Goofy. Being weird IS relative. I believe Einstein was “inspired” to create his Theory of Relativity while at a family reunion. In essence, he noticed it’s really weird how time moves much slower when you’re hanging out with relatives.

      And I can second that because I’m related to some of the weirdest people I know! 🙂

  13. You all wanna know why I think beer is a hint (not a “clue”)? Because before he posted this, he posted on his blog a story about Bella Abzug where he said he had a beer and then another beer, then further down he says, “…the fermented juice from a few vineyards…” At the time, I thought it was odd, because beer doesn’t come from a vineyard.

    Apparently, he caught the discrepancy too before he published TFTW, because in there, it’s changed from beer to wine.

    So, why use beer in the first place?

    There are also a couple more places he uses the word “beer.”

    Now, if I could only figure out the correlation between beer, ziplock bags, and purses. 🙂

    • Beer seems to be a common denominator in many stories.

      My take on beer and ziplock bags it so say anyone would be surprised how well they hold up under use with liquids (inside as mentioned to hold beer or protecting from outside liquids such as moisture as mentioned in previous story).

      Dal recently mentioned ziplock bags in the story Dragon bracelet at the end of Forrest’s story: http://dalneitzel.com/2014/07/16/dragon/

      added by dal-
      Forrest did not send along a photo of the dragon bracelet. If you want to see it I guess you will have to find the chest because it is in a zip lock inside. He told me he put it in there “because the bracelet has a stainless steel hinge that might be effected by moisture if it is not found for a few centuries”.

        • @Kyote, not in water was my conclusion about baggies as well. Why attempt protecting the dragon cost bracelet from moisture if submerged? We all know baggies hold air, float, seals break. I wonder if it’s vacuum sealed? At any rate, near impossible to see a TC under water from a 12 ft distance. Same true if behind falls. I do however wonder about Forrest’s statements to turn over logs in the forest to see what’s underneath. Would you still find the TC from 12ft away if under a log. The log would have to be quite unusual and light enough to move.

          • @Sissel – I think you are right about vacuum sealed. Makes sense to me regardless of under water or not.

  14. Forrest.. wise, interesting, relevant, and awesome are a more apt description than weird. Thank you for yet another fascinating piece from your collection with an interesting anecdote. I believe we each have the power within us to change destinies as we share faith and love with others:-)

  15. What strikes fear in me is how this scary mask holds it’s form almost as if it had been worn for eons..that nose is the worst part 🙁

  16. No Forrest your not weird. Your just your own man. There are some of us that others think are weird but what is the description of weird anyhow. Something that is not the ordinary or what is not the most common. Sometimes I change my mind after I arrive but I don’t forget why I was there . Sometimes a person feels like he should just let things be and not disturb the way things are. Sometimes a person regrets doing that and has to return and sometime when you return its to late and things have changed anyway. Maybe I’ll go sit on a stone chair and look at my feet. But I will get er done. Does that make me weird. Maybe so . I like the mask Forrest.

    • Hi Woody Bogg, your screen name is a fun pun…akin to a forested fen, or perhaps a kin of ff:-) By the way, my entire family thinks I’m a bit weird.

      On my last search, my group spread out to cover more territory and a perfect stone chair called my name… Nestled beneath an ancient, gnarled pine, long stripped of life and home to a great horned owl, the stone has rested through eternity past. Perched high atop a wind blown plateau, gazing at snowy peaks dressed in majesty, I enjoyed the most solitary moment of my life – in the sun warmed stone chair. The expanse of creation left me breathless and keenly aware of my own smallness. A perfect moment to day dream and contemplate nothing but beauty.

  17. I think I’m going to don that mask again and drive around my neighborhood. I might hide behind a tree and peer out occasionally. I wish this was forever!

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