The key to the Olmecs’ rise appears to have been a strong, centralized monarchy. The colossal heads, each one depicting a particular individual, are likely portraits of the Olmec kings who ruled from ornate palaces at San Lorenzo and La Venta.
Olmec religious activities were performed by a combination of rulers, full-time priests, and shamans. The rulers seem to have been the most important religious figures, with their links to the Olmec deities or supernaturals providing legitimacy for their rule.
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 Olmec cities were ruled by a family of ruler-shamans who wielded enormous power over their subjects. This is seen in their public works: the colossal heads are a good example. Geological records show that the sources of the stone used in the San Lorenzo heads were found some 50 miles away.
The Olmec culture is often considered a “mother culture” to later Mesoamerican cultures. There is no surviving direct account of the Olmec’s religious beliefs, unlike the Mayan Popol Vuh, or the Aztecs with their many codices and conquistador accounts.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
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 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.
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.
Olmec Economy Most common Olmec “citizens” were involved in food production, tending fields of basic crops such as maize, beans, and squash, or fishing the rivers that flowed through the Olmec homelands. baby-faced figurines (essentially, portable versions of the Olmec stone heads);
To quickly sum up, the Maya were first but learned a lot from the Olmecs, who started 1,200 years later.
The Olmec diet mainly consisted of squash, beans, manioc, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and maize.
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).
The Olmec Dragon represented the Earth or at least the plane upon which humans lived. As such, he represented agriculture, fertility, fire, and otherworldly things. The dragon may have been associated with the Olmec ruling classes or elite.