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The Olmec Civilization


The Olmec were Mesoamerica's first civilization. They were 

located in Laguna de los Cerros, tres Zapotes, San Lorenzo, La Venta, 

and the Tuxtla Mountains, in Mexico. The purpose of this report is to 

show how the Olmec lived, their beliefs, and their spectacular art.

 The Olmec were a mother culture to later civilizations. The 

culture of the Olmec started in Mexico's Gulf Coast between 1200 and 

1400 B.C , approximately between the Trojan war, and the golden age of 

Athens, and ended about 3000 years ago. The Olmec were among the first 

Americans to design ritual centres and raise earthen pyramids. On the 

pyramids there were statues which were strategically placed as a 

shrine. As the Olmec culture gradually developed some Olmec villages 

grew strong and powerful, while others were less fortunate. The 

villages shared their resources, such as rubber and basalt. The Olmec 

had different social ranks, from workers such as fishers, farmers, 

traders and specialists such as artisans and sculptors, to rulers.

Rulers were individuals who had the power to float basalt down the 

river and to commission colossal statues and other public work. The 

Olmec farmed and ate corn. They also ate shellfish, fish, turtles, 

beans, deer, and dog. Perhaps the most spectacular trait of the Olmec 

were that they used hieroglyphs. They used hieroglyphs to record 

dates, events, and to tell stories. Although the Olmec were hard 

workers they still had time for a ceremonial ball game.

 The Olmec had many beliefs. Among these beliefs were chaneques 

which were dwarf trixters who lived in water falls. They also had 

their own beliefs in cosmology. The Olmec had natural shrines devoted 

to the hill on which the shrine was located and the water. The Olmec 

were believed to have a corn god. Jaguars were also worshipped 

religiously, perhaps because the jaguar was the most powerful 

predator. The Olmec believed that the jaguar brought rain. The men 

would sacrifice blood to the jaguar, wear masks, dance, and crack 

whips to imitate the sound of thunder. This ritual was done in May. 

The Olmec also made offerings of jade figures to the jaguar.

 The Olmec had early achievements in art. Perhaps the most 

incredible findings from the Olmec culture are the sculptures. The

Olmec used wood, basalt and jade to make the statues. The wooden 

artifacts are said to be the oldest in Mesoamerica. The Olmec used 

basalt to make colossal heads. The size of these heads ranged from 5 

feet to 11 feet tall. Some say the heads represent sacrificial 

offering. Others think they portray the elite Olmec ancestors. These 

heads have also been interpreted as being warriors or ball players. 

Basalt was also used to carve thrones. The Olmec used art to glorify 

rulers by making them monuments of super natural creatures to portray 

them such as part human, part beast. The beast was usually the jaguar. 

It is believed that these monuments were annihilated after the death 

of the leader. The figurines made of jade were small and sexless. Some 

of the more elaborate statues wore extensive headdress with a long 

train, and rectangular chest plates, sat cross-legged, leaned forward 

and looked straight ahead.

 In conclusion the Olmec, Mesoamerica's first civilization were a 

mother culture to other civilizations. They had many beliefs, and had 

early achievements in elaborate art. The article, "New light on the 

Olmec," was an interesting article but it was very repetitive. It is 

scarcely recommended. 



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