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All portray mature individuals with fleshy cheeks, flat noses, and slightly crossed eyes; their physical characteristics correspond to a type that is still common among the inhabitants of Tabasco and Veracruz. The boulders were brought from the Sierra de los Tuxtlas mountains of Veracruz.
Given that the extremely large slabs of stone used in their production were transported over large distances, requiring a great deal of human effort and resources, it is thought that the monuments represent portraits of powerful individual Olmec rulers.
The smallest weigh 6 tons, while the largest is variously estimated to weigh 40 to 50 tons, although it was abandoned and left uncompleted close to the source of its stone.
Together with these, of particular relevance to the colossal heads are the "Olmec-style masks" in stone, so called because none have yet been excavated in circumstances that allow the proper archaeological identification of an Olmec context.
These evocative stone face masks present both similarities and differences to the colossal heads.
Of these, only the Olmec civilization developed in a lowland tropical forest setting.
The Olmecs were the first inhabitants of the Americas to construct monumental architecture and to settle in towns and cities.