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.
What is culture influenced by the Olmec?
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 Maya (2000 B.C.E.-900 C.E.) and Aztec (1300-1500 C.E.) cultures were influenced by the earlier Olmec civilization.
The Olmec are considered by historians to be the “mother” culture of Mesoamerica. All later cultures, such as the Veracruz, Maya, Toltec and Aztecs all borrowed from the Olmec. Certain Olmec gods, such as the Feathered Serpent, Maize God and Water God, would live on in the cosmos of these later civilizations.
After about 500 bce the Olmec “unification” gave way to an era (consisting of the Late Formative and Classic periods) of separate regional styles and kingdoms. These lasted until c. 700–900 ce. Among these are the well-known Maya, Zapotec, Totonac, and Teotihuacán civilizations.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
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.
There is evidence that both the Maya and the Aztec were influenced by the Olmec. The name Olmec is an Aztec name for that civilization, since the real name is unknown. The Olmec were the first to build the pyramid style of temples in Mesoamerica, a style later used by the Aztec and the Maya.
Archaeological evidence also suggests that they originated the Mesoamerican practices of the Mesoamerican Ballgame —a popular game in the pre-Columbian Americas played with balls made from solid rubber—and that they may have practiced ritual bloodletting.
How did the Olmecs and Maya influence the Aztec civilization in similar ways? The Aztecs used Olmec styles for temples and the Mayan calendar for rituals conducted in them. The Maya influence was more direct than that of the Olmecs because the Maya civilization thrived only a few hundred years before the Aztecs.
Two other similarities between these three civilizations are the use of a calendar, which they used to predict eclipses, schedule religious ceremonies, and determine when to plant/harvest crops, and go off to war, (more so the Mayas and the Aztecs), and they all had some form of a writing system.
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 Olmec civilization developed and flourished at such sites as La Venta and San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, eventually succeeded by the Epi-Olmec culture between 300–250 BCE. The Zapotec civilization arose in the Valley of Oaxaca, the Teotihuacan civilization arose in the Valley of Mexico.
The Olmec people are believed to have occupied a large part of modern-day Southern Mexico. The Olmec civilization is what is known as an archaeological culture. This means there is a collection of artifacts thought by archaeologists to represent a particular society.
Olmec Trade and Commerce The Olmecs created long-distance trade routes to obtain the things they needed, eventually making contacts all the way from the valley of Mexico to Central America. These extensive trade networks spread Olmec culture far and wide, spreading Olmec influence throughout Mesoamerica.