What did the Olmec and the Maya have in common? They farmed, raised livestock, traded with other peoples, developed a system of writing, made calendars, and built stone architecture.
Their astronomy was also carried on by later groups. They were probably obsess with the timing of religious ritual, as the Mayans and Aztec would be after them. Even the ritual ball game so popular among the Aztecs is believed to have been played in the ancient Olmec civilization.
The mysterious Olmec civilization, located in ancient Mexico, prospered in Pre-Classical (Formative) Mesoamerica from c. 1200 BCE to c. 400 BCE and is generally considered the forerunner of all subsequent Mesoamerican cultures including the Maya and Aztecs.
In short, the Maya came first, and settled in modern-day Mexico. Next came the Olmecs, who also settled Mexico. They didn’t build any major cities, but they were widespread and prosperous. They were followed by the Inca in modern-day Peru, and finally the Aztecs , also in modern-day Mexico.
The Olmec population declined sharply between 400 and 350 BCE, though it is unclear why. Archaeologists speculate that the depopulation was caused by environmental changes, specifically by the silting-up of rivers, which choked off the water supply.
In 1862, during an oil drilling expedition, the first Olmec heads were found. Many have agreed that their features — kinky hair, thick lips and broad noses — are distinctly African .
Between 1800 and 300 BC, complex cultures began to form. Many matured into advanced pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations such as the: Olmec , Izapa, Teotihuacan, Maya , Zapotec, Mixtec, Huastec, Purépecha, Totonac, Toltec , and Aztec , which flourished for nearly 4,000 years before the first contact with Europeans.
They were the first Mesoamerican civilization , and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. Among other “firsts”, the Olmec appeared to practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies.
Where did the Maya live? Mayan civilization occupied much of the northwestern part of the isthmus of Central America, from Chiapas and Yucatán, now part of southern Mexico , through Guatemala , Honduras , Belize , and El Salvador and into Nicaragua. Maya people still live in the same region today.
The Maya have lived in Central America for many centuries. They are one of the many Precolumbian native peoples of Mesoamerica . In the past and today they occupy Guatemala, adjacent portions of Chiapas and Tabasco, the whole of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, and the western edges of Honduras and Salvador.
The designation Maya comes from the ancient Yucatan city of Mayapan, the last capital of a Mayan Kingdom in the Post-Classic Period. The Maya people refer to themselves by ethnicity and language bonds such as Quiche in the south or Yucatec in the north (though there are many others).
Descendants of the Maya still live in Central America in modern-day Belize , Guatemala , Honduras , El Salvador and parts of Mexico. The majority of them live in Guatemala , which is home to Tikal National Park, the site of the ruins of the ancient city of Tikal. Roughly 40 percent of Guatemalans are of Mayan descent.
Ancient cultures located south of the present-day United States border are referred to as Pre-Columbian cultures. These people lived in the time before the arrival of Columbus. The three most notable Pre-Columbian civilizations were those of the Aztec , Maya , and Inca .
Norte Chico civilization
The oldest known civilization of the Americas was established in the Norte Chico region of modern Peru . Complex society emerged in the group of coastal valleys, between 3000 and 1800 BCE. The Quipu, a distinctive recording device among Andean civilizations , apparently dates from the era of Norte Chico’s prominence.