Who were the Olmecs?
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 Cosmology 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.
We also know that they worshipped a sky-dragon and that they believed four dwarves held up the sky, possibly representing the four cardinal directions which, along with other Olmec gods, became so important in later Mesoamerican religions.
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.
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.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
Banded-eye God (God IV) Unlike others, the Banded-eye God is only known from its profile – these renditions are generally concentrated on bowls from the Valley of Mexico (as shown on left), although the Banded-eye God is one of the five supernaturals shown on Las Limas Monument 1 from the Olmec heartland.
history of Mesoamerican civilization San Lorenzo, the oldest known Olmec centre, dates to about 1150 bce, a time when the rest of Mesoamerica was at best on a Neolithic level.
The Were-Jaguar The Olmec were-jaguar is a most intriguing god. It appears as a human baby or infant with distinctly feline features, such as fangs, almond-shaped eyes and a cleft in his head.
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 most commonly depicted pair are the Olmec Dragon (God I) and the Olmec Bird Monster (God III). The Olmec Dragon, believed to be a crocodilian with eagle, jaguar, human, and serpent attributes, appears to signify earth, water, fire, and agricultural fertility, and may have served as the patron deity of the elite.
Olmec Food, Crops, and Diet They planted many of the same crops seen in the region today, such as squash, beans, manioc, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Maize was a staple of the Olmec diet, although it is possible that it was introduced late in the development of their culture.
What does Olmec mean? People from the land of rubber.
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.
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.