Who were the Toltecs and what did they do?
Its origins remain shrounded in mystery: Though the Totonacs maintain that they built it, the Olmec influence is inescapable, and some archaeologists and scholars believe the Toltecs were the true founders.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
The advent of the Toltecs marked the rise of militarism in Mesoamerica. They also were noted as builders and craftsmen and have been credited with the creation of fine metalwork, monumental porticoes, serpent columns, gigantic statues, carved human and animal standard-bearers, and peculiar reclining Chac Mool figures.
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.
Kings, Priests, and Warriors When thinking about the Toltecs’ government structure, imagine that it consists of two distinct pillars: its military aristocracy and its priesthood. Their centrality to Toltec politics reflected the empire’s militaristic nature and the importance of the gods in Mesoamerican society.
The Olmec religious practices of sacrifice, cave rituals, pilgrimages, offerings, ball-courts, pyramids and a seeming awe of mirrors, was also passed on to all subsequent civilizations in Mesoamerica until the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century CE.
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 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 key to the Olmecs’ rise appears to have been a strong, centralized monarchy. The colossal heads, each one depicting a particular individual, are likely portraits of the Olmec kings who ruled from ornate palaces at San Lorenzo and La Venta.
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.
The Toltecs were a Mesoamerican people who preceded the Aztecs and existed between 800 and 1000 CE.
Definition of Toltec: a member of a people that dominated central and southern Mexico prior to the Aztecs.
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.
To quickly sum up, the Maya were first but learned a lot from the Olmecs, who started 1,200 years later.
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.