The Olmecs, in turn, were interested in many things that were not native to their part of the world. Their merchants traded for many things, including raw stone material such as basalt, obsidian, serpentine and jadeite, commodities such as salt, and animal products such as pelts, bright feathers, and seashells.
How did the Olmecs contribute to the world?
The larger stones were used for sculptures known as cabezas colasales, or colossal heads, and also altars, and thrones with many smaller stones were used for other sculptures. The more likely method was considered to be water transport using a combination of sleds and raft configurations made of canoes or logs.
Clues to a Civilization “The Olmec used the bitumen to seal canoes and boats, for weatherproofing and as an adhesive,” Wendt said. “We believe they traded bitumen. It was a valuable commodity and could be used for trade. And, of course, it traveled with them as part of their watercraft and so forth.
The creation of these heads was a significant undertaking. The basalt boulders and blocks used to carve the heads were located as much as 50 miles away. Archaeologists suggest a laborious process of slowly moving the stones, using a combination of raw manpower, sledges and, when possible, rafts on rivers.
With their heartlands in the Gulf of Mexico (now the states of Veracruz and Tabasco), Olmec influence and trade activity spread from 1200 BCE, even reaching as far south as present-day Nicaragua. Many Olmec sites suffered systematic and deliberate destruction of their monuments sometime between 400 and 300 BCE.
Olmec Tools In spite of only having Stone Age technology, the Olmecs were able to make several sorts of tools which made their life easier. They used whatever was at hand, such as clay, stone, bone, wood or deer antlers. They were skilled at making pottery: vessels and plates used for storing and cooking food.
How did Olmec people provide for their needs? They were farmers. They grew corns, beans, squash. They also hunted and fished.
Coastal Mayan groups used canoes to supply inland groups with salt, dried fish, shells, and pearls. The Mayans had no beasts of burden or wheels to carry their heavy loads. Instead, trade goods were transported on the backs of slaves who traveled along well established routes.
The earliest sea crossings by anatomically modern humans occurred around 53,000 to 65,000 years ago, when Australo-Melanesian populations migrated into the Sahul landmass (modern Australia and New Guinea) from the now partially underwater Sundaland peninsula.
The earliest documented ships were built by the ancient Egyptians, beginning about the 4th century BCE.
Contributions. 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.
By trading with their Mokaya partners, the Olmec had access to cacao, salt, feathers, crocodile skins, jaguar pelts and desirable stones from Guatemala such as jadeite and serpentine.
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 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.
Trading helped the Olmec build their urban centers of San Lorenzo and La Venta. However, these cities were used predominantly for ceremonial purposes and elite activity; most people lived in small villages. Individual homes had a lean-to and a storage pit nearby.