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 apparently had gods, or at least powerful supernatural beings, which were worshiped or respected in some way. Their names and functions—other than in the most general sense—have been lost over the ages. Olmec deities are represented in surviving stone carvings, cave paintings, and pottery.
The most commonly depicted pair are the Olmec Dragon ( God I ) and the Olmec Bird Monster (God III). The Olmec Dragon, believed to be a crocodilian with eagle, jaguar, human, and serpent attributes, appears to signify earth, water, fire, and agricultural fertility, and may have served as the patron deity of the elite.
We also know that they worshipped a sky-dragon and that they believed four dwarves held up the sky, possibly representing the four cardinal directions which, along with other Olmec gods, became so important in later Mesoamerican religions.
The Olmec lived in south-central Mexico, with their center in La Venta in Tabasco. Little is known about Olmec religion, though scholars believe there were eight main deities. People lived in small agricultural villages outside of urban centers, which were mainly for ceremonial use.
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.
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.
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.
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).
MATOS MOCTEZUMA: The Aztec religion was primarily polytheist. They had different gods, male and female. The sun god was Tonatiuh. There were many deities, and they were revered in monthly festivities with rich offerings.
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.
Covarrubias, in addition to seeing the jaguar as involved with rain, believed that the jaguar “dominated” the art of the Olmecs and that “this jaguar fixation must have had a religious motivation.” As his chart suggests, however, it is not the jaguar himself who dominates Olmec art but rather the composite being who
Olmec Jaguar God. The jaguar was a very important figure to the Olmec and some form of it was probably their principle God. It was referred to as a nahual, which is an animal that is so closely related to a certain man, that if the animal dies, the man will also die. The nahual can be the animal form of a God.
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.