Olmec Trade and Commerce Highly desirable items like obsidian knives, animal skins, and salt were routinely traded between neighboring cultures. The Olmecs created long-distance trade routes to obtain the things they needed, eventually making contacts all the way from the valley of Mexico to Central America.
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 Maya (2000 B.C.E.-900 C.E.) and Aztec (1300-1500 C.E.) cultures were influenced by the earlier Olmec civilization.
The Olmec are considered by historians to be the “mother” culture of Mesoamerica. All later cultures, such as the Veracruz, Maya, Toltec and Aztecs all borrowed from the Olmec. Certain Olmec gods, such as the Feathered Serpent, Maize God and Water God, would live on in the cosmos of these later civilizations.
Appearing around 1600 BCE, the Olmec were among the first Mesoamerican complex societies, and their culture influenced many later civilizations, like the Maya. The Olmec are known for the immense stone heads they carved from a volcanic rock called basalt.
The Olmecs studied astronomy and developed a system of writing and mathematics. They were the first Mesoamerican culture to build pyramids. Their calendar and religious beliefs appear to have influenced later cultures. In fact, many scholars call the Olmecs the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica.
The governmental structures of the three civilizations were different; the Olmecs had some sort of division of labor, the Mayas had city-states and kingdoms, linked by political ties, culture, and trade, which were not unified into a single empire, and the Aztecs had a huge empire whose people were organized into a
There is evidence that both the Maya and the Aztec were influenced by the Olmec. The name Olmec is an Aztec name for that civilization, since the real name is unknown. The Olmec were the first to build the pyramid style of temples in Mesoamerica, a style later used by the Aztec and the Maya.
How did the physical environment influence the Olmec? The cold and dry climate promoted specialization. The tropical climate was poorly suited for farming. The location on the Central Mexican Plateau allowed for terrace farming.
The Olmec created massive monuments, including colossal stone heads, thrones, stela (upright slabs), and statues. They may have been the originators of the Mesoamerican ball game, a ceremonial team sport played throughout the region for centuries.
Olmec Trade and Commerce The Olmecs created long-distance trade routes to obtain the things they needed, eventually making contacts all the way from the valley of Mexico to Central America. These extensive trade networks spread Olmec culture far and wide, spreading Olmec influence throughout Mesoamerica.
How did the Olmecs and Maya influence the Aztec civilization in similar ways? The Aztecs used Olmec styles for temples and the Mayan calendar for rituals conducted in them. The Maya influence was more direct than that of the Olmecs because the Maya civilization thrived only a few hundred years before the Aztecs.
Olmec art lived on in ancient Mesoamerican aesthetic traditions as well. The sculptors and painters in Olmec-period Mexico were the first to portray many of the iconic features of self-proclaimed divine rulers in Mesoamerica.