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?

95 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. Post a picture of you wearing the mask, standing beside Tohopka…….I would then vote, weird!

  7. you weird-naw. what I want to know is how she kept the beer cold in zip locks? Thxs for sharing the mask and its hx.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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 🙂

  12. 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.

  13. Hmm, that was an interesting history lesson. The answer to your question is…. I think you are remarkable.

  14. 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!

  15. 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! 🙂

      • My longest day was the last day in the army (it was mandatory for men in pre 1989 Romania). I still vividly remember how it felt, as it would never end.

        On the other hand, some of the shortest days were the first dates with girlfriends I had.

  16. 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: https://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.

  17. 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:-)

  18. 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 🙁

  19. I never thought I would say it, but I hope the treasure is not found for a long time. I so enjoy Forrest’s stories of his acquisitions.

  20. What do I think? She poured beer in zip-lock bags to save space in her purse? I never heard of sure a thing. WOW

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. Changelee—-

    You know what I found interesting in the article? (Thanks for posting on the thread). When speaking of jadeite vs. nephrite Forrest states that you can’t really tell them apart–only an expert can, and that one of the materials is “colder” than the other.

    I immediately thought of “your effort will be worth the cold”. Perhaps “cold” is not referring to temperature at all.

  24. Yep Forrest, I think you’re weird, er, I mean “eccentric”.
    I’ve asked the question I my head, sometimes even out loud if no ones around, “Forrest Fenn, who ARE you?”, a lot while trying to figure out this puzzle.
    A lot of the time when a person is great enough to be remembered by history, they were considered odd or even crazy during their own time. It’s only down the road that people look back and say “That person was BRILLIANT!”
    So don’t get all offended that I called you weird!
    I also found the old definitions of the word to be VERY interesting.
    I’m very weird myself, at least that’s what my family tells me, lol.

    • I should have said don’t get offended that I called you weird BECAUSE I found the old definitions of the word interesting.

      I was reading through the old comments and liked the definitions of weird that 23kachinas and Mary Lee Malcolm found.
      I also thought the conversation between Goofy, JC, and several others about the word “relative” to be interesting in a weird way.

  25. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninkasi
    “Among these is a poem with the English title, “A hymn to Ninkasi”. The poem is a recipe for brewing beer.[2] It can be argued that the art of brewing is broken down and explained in order to be passed down from generation to generation.”


    Hymn to Ninkasi

    Borne of the flowing water,
    Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
    Borne of the flowing water,
    Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,

    Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
    She finished its great walls for you,
    Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
    She finished it’s walls for you,

    Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
    Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
    Ninkasi, your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
    Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.

    You are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
    Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
    Ninkasi, you are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
    Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date] – honey,

    You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
    Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
    Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
    Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,

    You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
    The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
    Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
    The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,

    You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
    The waves rise, the waves fall.
    Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
    The waves rise, the waves fall.

    You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
    Coolness overcomes,
    Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
    Coolness overcomes,

    You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
    Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine
    (You the sweet wort to the vessel)
    Ninkasi, (…)(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

    The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
    You place appropriately on a large collector vat.
    Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
    You place appropriately on a large collector vat.

    When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
    It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
    Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
    It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

    • That was a very interesting read. I had no idea idea that beer had such a history!
      The hymn was both beautiful and practical,so like many other rituals.
      Thanks for sharing!

  26. It was worth enduring the weirdness to have acquired such a beautiful piece! (It was also worth catching the highly contagious weirdness disease)

    I wonder what Forrest’s preferred theory is on how the Americas were originally settled in prehistoric times? I grew up favoring the Alaskan land bridge theory, but after studying under a very wise professor who opened my eyes to all of the striking similarities between Southeast Asian and Early South American art & architecture, I’m sold on the idea of South America initially being settled by brave & hardy South Asian seafarers and having the Americas gradually being settled, and expanded into, northwards.

Comments are closed.