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The Olmec


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


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