Olmec artists are known for both monumental and miniature portrayals of what are assumed to be persons of authority-from six-ton heads sculptures to figurines.
|The Olmec heartland, where the Olmec reigned from 1400 to 400 BCE|
|Geographical range||Veracruz, Mexico|
|Preceded by||Archaic Mesoamerica|
Who was the chief god of the Olmecs?
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.
The Olmec and Tlatilco cultures evidently were in contact with one another, most likely through some sort of trade, and the Tlatilco culture adopted many aspects of Olmec art and culture. This may have even included some of the Olmec gods, as images of the Olmec Dragon and Banded-eye God appear on Tlatilco objects.
The Olmec may have given Mesoamerica its first written language as well. Undecipherable designs on certain pieces of Olmec stonework may be early glyphs: later societies, such as the Maya, would have elaborate languages using glyphic writing and would even develop books.
As of 400 BC, the city was mostly abandoned, no new pottery or sculptures were created, no new goods were imported or exported, and the height of the Olmec civilization had passed. Over-farming and agricultural troubles could have contributed to the demise of the Olmec, as well.
To quickly sum up, the Maya were first but learned a lot from the Olmecs, who started 1,200 years later.
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 Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
Olmec Cosmology 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 discovery of the first colossal head at Tres Zapotes in 1862 by José María Melgar y Serrano was not well documented nor reported outside of Mexico. The excavation of the same colossal head by Matthew Stirling in 1938 spurred the first archaeological investigations of Olmec culture.
The Maya adopted many practices established by the Olmec, including ritual bloodletting, the Mesoamerican ballgame, and the Long Count calendar.
Contributions. The Olmecs were apparently the first Mesoamerican people to fathom the concept of zero, develop a calendar, and create a hieroglyphic writing system. Also, they are credited for the discovery of the first conduit drainage system known in the Americas.
Olmec Food, Crops, and Diet They planted many of the same crops seen in the region today, such as squash, beans, manioc, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Maize was a staple of the Olmec diet, although it is possible that it was introduced late in the development of their culture.
Linguistic evidence has contributed to the ethnic identity of the archaeological Olmecs: they spoke a Mixe-Zoquean language. The Olmecs produced the earliest complex civilization in Mesoamerica (c. 1200–400 bce), and it was located mainly in the same area where Mixe-Zoquean languages are found.
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.