The Olmecs spoke an aspect of the Manding (Malinke-Bambara) language spoken in West Africa. Both the Olmec and epi-Olmec had hieroglyphic writing systems. The Olmec had both a syllabic and hieroglyphic script. The hieroglyphic signs were simply Olmec syllabic signs used to make pictures.
Linguistic evidence has contributed to the ethnic identity of the archaeological Olmecs: they spoke a Mixe-Zoquean language. The Olmecs produced the earliest complex civilization in Mesoamerica (c. 1200–400 bce), and it was located mainly in the same area where Mixe-Zoquean languages are found.
The subsequent Epi-Olmec culture (300 BCE to 250 CE), was a successor culture to the Olmec and featured a full-fledged writing system, the Isthmian (or Epi-Olmec) script. The existence of a writing system in Middle and Late Olmec periods has been a matter of long-standing debate.
Several clues have long suggested that the Olmec civilization, which flourished from 1200 B.C. to 400 B.C., was the first to develop cultural traditions, including writing, later adopted by the Maya, who reigned from about A.D. 300 to 900.
The Olmecs were a culture of ancient peoples -1300-400 B.C. – of the East Mexico lowlands. They are often regarded as the Mother Culture of later Middle American civilizations. The Olmec people called themselves Xi (pronounced Shi).
Olmec Tools In spite of only having Stone Age technology, the Olmecs were able to make several sorts of tools which made their life easier. They used whatever was at hand, such as clay, stone, bone, wood or deer antlers. They were skilled at making pottery: vessels and plates used for storing and cooking food.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
Olmec writing It was also long thought that many of the glyphs present on Olmec monumental sculpture, such as those on the so-called ” Ambassador Monument” (La Venta Monument 13), represented an early Olmec script.
In addition to their influence with contemporaneous Mesoamerican cultures, as the first civilization in Mesoamerica, the Olmecs are credited, or speculatively credited, with many “firsts”, including the bloodletting and perhaps human sacrifice, writing and epigraphy, and the invention of popcorn, zero and the
How do we know the Olmecs were technologically advanced? They used latex from trees to create rubber.
The authors of the report and principle researchers involved with its analysis concluded that it originated between 1100 and 900 BC, based on the fact that clay shards found around the block also date to this time.
The Olmec are probably best known for the statues they carved: 20 ton stone heads, quarried and carved to commemorate their rulers. The name Olmec is an Aztec word meaning the rubber people; the Olmec made and traded rubber throughout Mesoamerica.
Contributions. The Olmecs were apparently the first Mesoamerican people to fathom the concept of zero, develop a calendar, and create a hieroglyphic writing system. Also, they are credited for the discovery of the first conduit drainage system known in the Americas.
What evidence supports the idea that the Olmec developed an advanced civilization that was capable of organizing large pools of labor for important projects? The Olmec built large monuments and temples, and they transported huge blocks of stone to be carved into massive sculptures.
The Olmec civilization presents something of a mystery, indeed, we do not even know what they called themselves, as Olmec was their Aztec name and meant ‘rubber people’. Due to a lack of archaeological evidence their ethnic origins and the location and extent of many of their settlements are not known.
The Olmec may have given Mesoamerica its first written language as well. Undecipherable designs on certain pieces of Olmec stonework may be early glyphs: later societies, such as the Maya, would have elaborate languages using glyphic writing and would even develop books.