The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
Who were the Olmecs?
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.
While historians have speculated that the facial features of some monumental carved heads indicate an African origin of these people, most scholars believe that the Olmec, like other native Americans, descended from Asian ancestors who entered North America during the Great Ice Age.
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).
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 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 historic region of Mesoamerica comprises the modern day countries of northern Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and central to southern Mexico.
Overview: The Olmec lived along the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the modern-day Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz. The name Olmec is an Aztec word meaning the rubber people; the Olmec made and traded rubber throughout Mesoamerica.
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.
The Olmec Indians were a culture of ancient people who lived about 1300-400 B.C. in the Eastern Mexico lowlands. Some researchers say they descended from Asia – others say they were from Africa. The Olmec people called themselves Xi (pronounced Shi).
The Olmec ball game tradition was adopted by most early Mexican cultures.
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.
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 Maya (2000 B.C.E.-900 C.E.) and Aztec (1300-1500 C.E.) cultures were influenced by the earlier Olmec civilization.