The name Olmec is a Nahuatl—the Aztec language—word; it means the rubber people. Appearing around 1600 BCE, the Olmec were among the first Mesoamerican complex societies, and their culture influenced many later civilizations, like the Maya.
What were the Olmecs religious beliefs?
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 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 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.
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.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
The Nahuatl (Aztec) name for these people, Olmecatl, or Olmec in the modern corruption, means “ rubber people” or “people of the rubber country.” That term was chosen because the Olmecs extracted latex from Panama rubber trees (Castilla elastica) growing in the region and mixed it with the juice of a local vine (Ipomoea
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 Olmecs were extremely talented artists and sculptors: they produced many statues, masks, figurines, stelae, thrones and more. They are best known for their massive colossal heads, seventeen of which have been found at four different archaeological sites.
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.
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 Olmec civilization thrived along Mexico’s gulf coast from approximately 1200-400 B.C. and is considered the parent culture of many of the important Mesoamerican cultures that came after, including the Aztec and Maya.
Two great Olmec cities are known: San Lorenzo and La Venta. 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.
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.
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.