|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|
The Olmec were the first major civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands on the Gulf of Mexico in the present-day Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco.
While historians have speculated that the facial features of some monumental carved heads indicate an African origin of these people, most scholars believe that the Olmec, like other native Americans, descended from Asian ancestors who entered North America during the Great Ice Age.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
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.
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 Sumerian civilization is the oldest civilization known to mankind. The term Sumer is today used to designate southern Mesopotamia. In 3000 BC, a flourishing urban civilization existed. The Sumerian civilization was predominantly agricultural and had community life.
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 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).
These theories, however, have been abandoned and it is now thought that the heads represent Olmec rulers and that the facial features are not African but rather represent the people who reside in the Mexican Gulf Coast.
Indeed, Almere Read (41) suggests that even the Olmecs themselves regularly moved the heads around for different ritual purposes. Another theory is that the heads were used as powerful markers of rulership and distributed to declare political dominance in various territories.
The legendary origin of the Aztec people has them migrating from a homeland called Aztlan to what would become modern-day Mexico. While it is not clear where Aztlan was, a number of scholars believe that the Mexica—as the Aztec referred to themselves—migrated south to central Mexico in the 13th century.
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.
Mel Gibson’s latest film, Apocalypto, tells a story set in pre-Columbian Central America, with the Mayan Empire in decline. Villagers who survived a savage attack are taken by their captors through the jungle to the central Mayan city.
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.