|The Olmec heartland, where the Olmec reigned from 1400 to 400 BCE|
|Geographical range||Veracruz, Mexico|
|Dates||c. 2,500 – 400 BCE|
|Type site||San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán|
Olmec, the first elaborate pre-Columbian civilization of Mesoamerica ( c. 1200–400 bce ) and one that is thought to have set many of the fundamental patterns evinced by later American Indian cultures of Mexico and Central America, notably the Maya and the Aztec.
La Venta, ancient Olmec settlement, located near the border of modern Tabasco and Veracruz states, on the gulf coast of Mexico. La Venta was originally built on an island in the Tonalá River; now it is part of a large swamp.
The Olmec culture was Mesoamerica’s first great civilization. It thrived along Mexico’s Gulf coast from approximately 1200 – 400 B.C. and is considered the “mother culture” of societies that came later, such as the Maya and Aztec.
Scientists are typically split between two theories on the subject: Either the Maya developed directly from an older “mother culture” known as the Olmec, or they sprang into existence independently.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
Some historians assert that the Mayans were the descendants of the Olmecs.
The Olmec colossal heads are stone representations of human heads sculpted from large basalt boulders. They range in height from 1.17 to 3.4 metres (3.8 to 11.2 ft). The heads date from at least 900 BC and are a distinctive feature of the Olmec civilization of ancient Mesoamerica.
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 end of the Olmecs The Olmec population declined sharply between 400 and 350 BCE, though it is unclear why. Archaeologists speculate that the depopulation was caused by environmental changes, specifically by the silting-up of rivers, which choked off the water supply.
Early History The Olmecs, Mexico’s first known society, settled on the Gulf Coast near what is now Veracruz.
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.
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 Maya were native people of Mexico and Central America, while the Aztec covered most of northern Mesoamerica between c. 1345 and 1521 CE, whereas Inca flourished in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1533 CE and extended across western South America.
Yes, the Aztecs conquered and ruled some of the Mayan territories. In fact some historians think that that conquest was the end of the Mayan empire. Many Mayans and other tribes from what today is Mexico were ruled and sometimes used as slaves by the Aztecs.