The idea of constructing temple-pyramids appears to have taken hold early. 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.
Why did the Olmecs build pyramids?
They may have been the originators of the Mesoamerican ball game, a ceremonial team sport played throughout the region for centuries. They also built earthen mounds and pyramids, and ceramics of several types that became common throughout a broad region influenced by the Olmec civilization.
The three sites of San Lorenzo, La Venta and Laguna de los Cerros all had a bilateral symmetry in their planning and at La Venta the first pyramid in Mesoamerica was constructed.
Houses. Olmec homes were very simple and made out of logs, heavy stone, and clay. Olmecs liked to live near flood plains so built their houses on small mounds or platforms. They also lived in buildings with earth packed around poles which were used as sleeping area, dining room, and shelter.
But archaeologists don’t know what transformed a society of farmers into the class-based social structure of the Olmec, with their leaders and commoners, bosses and laborers, artisans and priests. Diehl theorizes that it was population pressure and that as the pre-Olmec villages grew, they naturally stratified.
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.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
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.
Civilizations like the Olmec, Maya, Aztec and Inca all built pyramids to house their deities, as well as to bury their kings. In many of their great city-states, temple-pyramids formed the center of public life and were the site of holy rituals, including human sacrifice.
The men wore breech-cloth, back apron and a belt. The women wore knee length skirts. The priests wore their slaves skin when sacrificed.
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 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.
The Olmecs lived in hot, humid lowlands along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in what is now southern Veracruz and Tabasco states in southern Mexico. The first evidence of their remarkable art style appears about 1200 bce in San Lorenzo, their oldest known building site.
Olmec art is best known for colossal sculpture in volcanic stone and intricate works in jade, both media that were imported from faraway regions.