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Mystery Cache

What's A Colossal Head 4? Smithsonian NMNH GeoTour

A cache by Natural History Geocachers Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 4/2/2013
In District of Columbia, United States
4.5 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: small (small)

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Geocache Description:


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History GeoTour will be discontinued at a date to be determined in the first quarter of 2018. The NMNH GeoTour was launched April 2, 2013; and we’ve appreciated the support and positive feedback on the NMNH GeoTour from the Geocaching community. We have enjoyed reading your logs. We hope; and I believe we did, through the cache pages and puzzles, provided a different look into the National Museum of Natural History. We wish it could continue but that will not be possible. We wanted to let you know, at this time, so that if you wish to do the tour it should not be put off. As of 4/20/2017 there remain 125 coins to be awarded for completing the tour.

The National Museum of Natural History GeoTour, launched on April 2, 2013, consists of nine caches in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Caches need not be accomplished in any particular order; each can be treated and logged as a stand-alone cache. Geocachers must download a passport, in which the code word(s) from each cache must be recorded. Each cache will take a greater time commitment than most caches due to the nature of the puzzles being a combination of web research and field puzzles. Some caches are in high traffic area and will be extremely difficult to retrieve without drawing attention. Be prepared to explain what you are doing to lots of passersby. If you intend to do all the caches in one time, it will serve you well to read each cache page and determine the various locations that information for each of the final cache locations must be gathered. Information may have to be gathered from the web (cache-specific sites are listed on the appropriate cache page), in the museum, on the individual cache pages, and in state parks or forests. Each of the nine caches will feature a department but it will be seen that in nature, the subjects of these caches are not so easily pigeon-holed. This cache features the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Anthropology.

The story behind the head
The National Museum of Natural History has had a long and involved research program centered on the Olmec culture in southern Mexico. Outside the museum you will see an exact 1.78m (5.84 ft) tall carved stone replica of Colossal Head #4. This sculpture was created by Ignacio Pérez Solano. He carved the 6 ton head out of volcanic stone, and faithfully replicated the original head carved by the Olmec about 3000 years ago. This replica was a gift to the Smithsonian from Miguel Alemán Velazco, then governor of the state of Veracruz, Mexico. In 1946, Smithsonian archaeologist Matthew W. Stirling excavated the original head, named "San Lorenzo Colossal head #4" after the town near which it was discovered. Now on display at the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa, Veracruz, it was lent to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in 1978 for the “Treasures of Mexico”exhibit. During its exhibition here it was displayed on the mall steps, where either the banded iron or the fossil wood can presently be seen.

The Olmec civilization was the dominant culture in the states of the present day United States of Mexico of Veracruz and Tabasco south of the Bay of Campeche, for approximately 1200 years from 1600-400 BCE (3,600 to 2,400 years ago) (Wikipedia). Radiometric dating (14C (Carbon-14) at the San Lorenzo archeological sites show that that area was occupied and the heads found there were carved between 1200-900 BCE (3000 – 2900 years ago).

Whose head is it?
The name of the individual whose head this sculpture represents is not known since there are no codices known to have been written by the Olmec; as there are for the Aztec and Mayan civilization. Nor are there any unquestioned stelae with glyphs that might shed light on this question. Though it is not conclusively known whom the colossal heads represent, they are thought to be ball players; as they all appear to be wearing helmets. It is thought that the Olmec were the originators of this ball game played throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

This is one of 17 colossal head sculptures known from one of the world's great ancient civilizations. The Olmec were very knowledgeable and accomplished many things. They had a complex society that supported an elite group of individuals, they built cities, created spectacular monumental sculptures and built ceremonial centers, where it is thought that they practiced human sacrifice. All of this was accomplished without three things that we take for granted; the wheel, iron tools, and an alphabet. However, they used the concept of zero in their mathematics about a thousand years before Europeans, and developed a calendar that was more precise than any the eastern hemisphere would develop, by a couple thousand years. They left no written stone records, thus little is known about the Olmec in comparison to other Mesoamerican cultures. From the artifacts unearthed; we know that one of the sources of jade, used to carve many of the figurines, is located 500 km southeast in Guatemala, which may indicate that the Olmec traveled and traded widely. The Olmec used the jade to carve figurines and polished some into mirrors.

The museum's Department of Anthropology has sent several expeditions over the years to study the Olmec culture. To find the coordinates for the latitude of the final cache you will have to go the Expeditions & Fieldwork for the necessary information.


North AB° CD.EFG
A) Living in the field had its problems. What day of the month did Wetmore write a letter to Stirling warning him about a treatment of the amoeba? 1A = Second digit in the day.
B) How many joint Smithsonian/National Geographic expeditions, between 1935 and 1950 went to study the Olmec civilization in Mexico?
C) The first report of ancient civilizations in Mexico that lead Blom and La Farge to the La Venta area was seen by a non-indigenous person in 1C19?
D) In what year did the Smithsonian/National Geographic field expedition discover a stone monument with calendric inscriptions? 19D9
E) How many days did it take the Stirlings in 1940 to travel between their camp in southern Veracruz to the site of La Venta?
F) Year W. H. Holmes published the first Smithsonian scientific contribution on a jadeite statue that is now believed to be attributable to the Olmec. F = Year - 1906.
G) The National Geographic contributed $ (amount of money = $) to the first expedition to Mexico? G = digitsum $ + 1
As a quick check on your answers Digitsum of AB° CD.EFG = 4

To determine the longitude of the final you must go to the Olmec Artifacts Database
and enter the underlined words into the ‘object name’ field and hit the enter key. This will retrieve the information about a specimen. There will be a specimen number beginning with ‘A’ (in counting ignore the A it is not a digit). Ignore also the - 0 appended to the numbers.
To find the longitude take the indicated digit and substitute it for the appropriate letter.
S) Earthenware rattle = 5th digit
T) nephrite celt = 6th digit
U) Projectile Points = 6th digit
V) Serpentine Object Of Unknown Use = 4th digit
W) Earthenware Whistle [returns two specimens] = larger 6 digit # minus smaller 6 digit #
X) Stone Carving; Human Figure, Standing = 3rd digit
Y) Carved Mask - Face = 2nd minus 1st digit
Z) Tuxtla Statuette = the digit sum of date “…bears columns of incised glyphs corresponding to date A.D.”
As a quick check on your answers Digitsum of STU° VW.XYZ = 1

Critical requirements and rules for the award of the geocoin are here NMNH GeoTour Passport.

1) The Original 9 caches of the NMNH GeoTour must be completed.

2) Two (2) photographs are required. Posted with your found log. (This is not an ALR as you may log a find on these two caches without posting a picture. It is a requirement to be awarded a geocoin. In other words – no photos no coin but your found log will stand).
a. Photo of an adult at GC3RRWA "CINMAR" with the log book clearly next to the face. Do not expose the code word in the photo.
b. Photo of an adult at GC3T24J “Leave it to Beaver” with the log book clearly next to the face. Do not expose the code word in the photo.

3) A completed Passport with the required code words sent to the address listed on the Passport.

4) One (1) coin per household or mailing address. If there are multiple geocachers in a household who have completed the tour, only one (1) coin will be awarded to that address.

5) The passports that have been received prior to January 1, 2016 will be awarded one coin without having to meet item 1 above, and these rules were not in effect for the NMNH GeoTour at that time.

6) January 1 will be the date of publication of these requirements to earn the geocoin.


We would like to acknowledge Dr. Jane Walsh for her assistance with cache page content and a several beta testers who checked the puzzle.

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Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Vg vf crezvggrq gb jnyx hc gb gur urnq npebff gur ynja. Gurer vf n ybj cynpr va gur jnyy sbe guvf checbfr.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



348 Logged Visits

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Current Time:
Last Updated: on 10/20/2017 12:24:54 PM Pacific Daylight Time (7:24 PM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum

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