What is the difference between the Olmecs and the Maya?
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 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 Mayans are an older people and were around a thousand years before the Aztecs even arrived in Central America. The Aztecs were the dominant culture in Mexico at the time of Cortez’s arrival in Mexico in the 1500s.
Struggles for control of this rich but limited farmland resulted in a dominant landowning class that shaped the first great Mesoamerican civilization, the Olmec. 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Maya, Inca, and Aztecs built great civilizations in Mexico and in Central and South America between 1,800 and 500 years ago. In short, the Maya came first, and settled in modern-day Mexico. Incas were more powerful, because they were much more unified (and their organisation was definitely superior) than Aztecs.
The Toltecs were a Mesoamerican people who preceded the Aztecs and existed between 800 and 1000 CE.
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.
When used to describe ethnic groups, the term “Aztec” refers to several Nahuatl-speaking peoples of central Mexico in the postclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology, especially the Mexica, the ethnic group that had a leading role in establishing the hegemonic empire based at Tenochtitlan.
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.
To quickly sum up, the Maya were first but learned a lot from the Olmecs, who started 1,200 years later.
The Olmecs, Mexico’s first known society, settled on the Gulf Coast near what is now Veracruz.
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.