By 1500 BCE early Olmec sculptors mastered the human form. This can be determined by wooden Olmec sculptures discovered in the swampy bogs of El Manati. Before radiocarbon dating could tell the exact age of Olmec pieces, archaeologists and art historians noticed the unique “Olmec-style” in a variety of artifacts.
What technology did the Olmec use?
The first Olmec head, Tres Zapotes Colossal Head One, was first discovered by archeologist Matthew Stirling in 1938. Sixteen other heads were subsequently found with one from La Cobata, another from Tres Zapotes, four from La Venta, and ten from San Lorenzo.
The stone slab first came to light in 1999, when road builders digging gravel came across it among debris from an ancient mound at Cascajal, a place the archaeologists called the “Olmec heartland.” The village is on an island in southern Veracruz about a mile from San Lorenzo, where ruins have been found of the
It is one of the finest examples of an Olmec colossal head. It was found lying on its side to the south of a monumental throne. The monument was discovered at a depth of 5 metres (16 ft) during a magnetometer survey of the site in 1968; it has been dated to the Early Preclassic.
The Olmec people are believed to have occupied a large part of modern-day Southern Mexico. The Olmec civilization is what is known as an archaeological culture. This means there is a collection of artifacts thought by archaeologists to represent a particular society.
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
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
“The Cascajal Block was discovered by road builders in the late 1990s in a pile of debris in the village of Lomas de Tacamichapa in the Veracruz lowlands in the ancient Olmec heartland.
Archaeologist Stephen D. Houston of Brown University said that this discovery helps to “link the Olmec civilization to literacy, document an unsuspected writing system, and reveal a new complexity to [the Olmec] civilization.” 900 BCE, preceding the oldest Zapotec writing dated to about 500 BCE.
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. Olmec is a syllabic writing system used in the Olmec heartland from 900 BC- AD 450. The Olmec people introduced writing to the New World.
The End of the Olmec Civilization Around 400 B.C. La Venta went into decline and was eventually abandoned altogether. With the fall of La Venta came the end of classic Olmec culture. Although the descendants of the Olmecs still lived in the region, the culture itself vanished.
The most agreed upon theory is that, because of their unique physical features and the difficulty and cost involved in their creation, they represent Olmec rulers. Seventeen heads have been discovered to date, 10 of which are from San Lorenzo and 4 from La Venta; two of the most important Olmec centres.
The Mystery of the Olmec Heads Another key bone of contention surrounding the colossal Olmec heads comes from their distinctive facial features. Some theories suggest that the Olmecs were heavily influenced by early black civilisations, as a result of the supposedly African features the basalt heads possess.
The Olmecs lived in hot, humid lowlands along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in what is now southern Veracruz and Tabasco states in southern Mexico. The first evidence of their remarkable art style appears about 1200 bce in San Lorenzo, their oldest known building site.
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.
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.