Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations






Olmec civilization

Category: Olmec

After the symposium on “Regional Perspectives in Olmec problem” in 1983, the term “Olmec” decided to use a narrow sense: a society and the archaeological culture, which existed on the southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the II – I millennium BC.

The earliest traces of habitation were found in the area of La Venta, and refer to the end of III millennium BC. The first settlers had mastered the ecological zones of river estuaries and created an integrated economy, with agriculture (maize, which gave three crops a year, beans, avocado), marine and river resources. The first settlements were small villages in the irrigated areas.

At the end of II millennium BC. sedentary lifestyle is becoming mainstream and there are ceremonial centers on the Gulf Coast and in parts of the highlands. Begins flowering of culture the Atlantic coast of the present state of Veracruz, named Olmec (from the Aztec word “Olmi” – rubber). The Aztecs called them both on behalf of the Gulf Coast, where rubber was produced and where they lived today they Olmecs. So actually the Olmecs and the Olmec culture – not the same thing.

According to ancient legend, the Olmec (people from the land of rubber trees) appeared on the territory of modern Tabasco, about 4000 years ago, they arrived by sea and settled in the village Tamoanchan (“We are searching our home”). In the same tradition, says that the wise men sailed, and the remaining people have occupied these lands and began to call themselves by the name of their great leader Olmeca Uimtoni.

According to another legend, The Olmecs were the result of union of the divine animal jaguar with a mortal woman. Since then, the Olmecs believed jaguars their totems, and they were called Indians, jaguars.

However, despite the best efforts of archaeologists, is nowhere so far failed to find any trace of the origin and evolution of the Olmec civilization, the stages of its development, its place of origin. Little is known about the social organization of the Olmec and their beliefs and rituals – except that they are sort of like, too, did not shun human sacrifices. It is not known and in what language was spoken Olmecs, and which ethnic group they belonged. In addition to all the high humidity in the Gulf of Mexico has led to what has not survived a single Olmec skeleton that makes it extremely difficult to archaeologists the opportunity to shed light on the culture of the most ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica.

Some scientists believe that America’s first empire is the Olmec. This was due to the creation of cities (ritual centers) with a unique, simple and powerful architecture.

Date 400 BC was chosen by researchers as the end of the Olmec archaeological culture, although it is rather conventional. Rather, the focus should be on the end of one stage in the history of the region and the beginning of another. Tres Zapotes still alive, as well as the Laguna de los Cerros. Overall, however, the core of political and cultural development is shifting to the north, the mountains of Tuxtla and extends along the coast of Veracruz. Along with the old centers grow new – Cerro de Las Mesas, Viejon. New capital retain many of their predecessors, so late formative society of Gulf Coast has been called epiolmec.

The diet of the ancient Olmecs was also based on a “corn” diet, as well as other peoples rest of pre-Columbian America, the principal crop was maize. A major sectors of economy were agriculture and fishing.

Olmec culture is called the “mother culture” of Central America and the earliest civilization in Mexico. They are credited with creating the foundation of writing, the calendar system of numbers for later cultures of Mesoamerica. But it is still being hotly debated – not many people agree that it was invented by the Olmecs.

In the last 100 BC, the Olmec civilization completely disappear, but their legacy organically included in the culture of the Maya and other peoples of Mesoamerica.


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