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Madrid, Spain

Olmec Head Roundabout

An exact replica of a colossal Olmec head sits atop a pyramid within a Madrid traffic circle. 

A large head, perched atop a stepped pyramid, keeps an unblinking eye on drivers as they whirl around a traffic circle in Madrid. The odd sight looks as though it should be behind glass in museum, not plopped outside and encircled by a steady stream of cars.

The looming roadside structure is actually an exact replica of an Olmec head known as “Colossal Head 8” which was carved sometime between 1200 and 900 BC. Also called “The King,” the ancient boulder that inspired this new version is one of 17 colossal heads discovered throughout Mexico.

The heads are a hallmark relic of the Olmec civilization, which once flourished across ancient Mesoamerica. Archaeologists are still unclear as to what the giant heads represent, or how the big boulders were transported across vast distances.

The Olmec head above the Madrid traffic circle was made in 2005 by the Mexican sculptor Ignacio Pérez Solano. It was donated by the Mexican state of Veracruz in 2007.

The traffic circle head is the same size and weight as the colossal head it’s modeled after. The sculptor spent about three months working to carve it.

The big Olmec head is in the center of a roundabout in the Ensanche de Vallecas neighborhood, located southeast of the city center.

Know Before You Go

The Cabeza Olmeca traffic circle is an approximately half-mile walk from the tube station Congosto. Walk along the street Peña Sorrapia until you reach the park, where you can see the monument.