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.
Who were the Olmecs?
Monumental sacred complexes, massive stone sculptures, ball games, the drinking of chocolate, and animal gods were all features of Olmec culture passed on to those peoples who followed this first great Mesoamerican civilization.
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.
What was one characteristic unique to Olmec culture? A hieroglyphic writing system and a calendar system based on the movement of the sun. Also noted as America’s first city builders. What were some Zapotec contributions to later cultures?
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.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
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.
What characterized the first Mesoamerican civilizations? The Olmec, (rubber people because rubber trees grew), Farmed along the river banks, they traded Jade and obsidian, they once had large built cities centers for religious uses. The Zapotec people replaced them.
Like many early Mesoamerican cultures, the Olmec believed in three tiers of existence: the physical realm they inhabited, an underworld and a sky realm, home of most of the gods. Their world was bound together by the four cardinal points and natural boundaries such as rivers, the ocean and mountains.
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.
La Venta, the centre of Olmec culture (c. 800–400 bce), contains one of the earliest pyramidal structures, a mound of earth and clay 100 feet (30 metres) high. Mesoamerican pyramids were generally earth mounds faced with stone.
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 did Olmec civilization differ from Maya civilization? The Olmecs were the first culture to live in Mesoamerica. The Olmecs came later and rejected most of the Mayas’ early practices. The Olmec civilization declined after a prolonged drought, while the Maya civilization continued to flourish into the 1500s.
The heads date from at least 900 BC and are a distinctive feature of the Olmec civilization of ancient Mesoamerica. They all display distinctive headgear and one theory is that these were worn as protective helmets, maybe worn for war or to take part in a ceremonial Mesoamerican ballgame.
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 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.