The Olmec were Mesoamerica’s first civilization. They were locatedin Laguna de los Cerros, tres Zapotes, San Lorenzo, La Venta, and theTuxtla Mountains, in Mexico. The purpose of this report is to show howthe Olmec lived, their beliefs, and their spectacular art. The Olmec were a mother culture to later civilizations. The cultureof 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, andended about 3000 years ago. The Olmec were among the first Americans todesign ritual centres and raise earthen pyramids. On the pyramids therewere statues which were strategically placed as a shrine. As the Olmecculture gradually developed some Olmec villages grew strong andpowerful, while others were less fortunate.
The villages shared theirresources, such as rubber and basalt. The Olmec had different socialranks, from workers such as fishers, farmers, traders and specialistssuch as artisans and sculptors, to rulers. Rulers were individuals whohad the power to float basalt down the river and to commission colossalstatues and other public work. The Olmec farmed and ate corn. They alsoate shellfish, fish, turtles, beans, deer, and dog.
Perhaps the mostspectacular trait of the Olmec were that they used hieroglyphs. Theyused hieroglyphs to record dates, events, and to tell stories. Althoughthe Olmec were hard workers they still had time for a ceremonial ballgame. The Olmec had many beliefs. Among these beliefs were chanequeswhich were dwarf trixters who lived in water falls. They also had theirown beliefs in cosmology.
The Olmec had natural shrines devoted to thehill on which the shrine was located and the water. The Olmec werebelieved to have a corn god. Jaguars were also worshipped religiously,perhaps because the jaguar was the most powerful predator. The Olmecbelieved that the jaguar brought rain. The men would sacrifice blood tothe jaguar, wear masks, dance, and crack whips to imitate the sound ofthunder. This ritual was done in May.
The Olmec also made offerings ofjade figures to the jaguar. The Olmec had early achievements in art. Perhaps the mostincredible findings from the Olmec culture are the sculptures. The Olmecused wood, basalt and jade to make the statues. The wooden artifacts aresaid to be the oldest in Mesoamerica.
The Olmec used basalt to makecolossal heads. The size of these heads ranged from 5 feet to 11 feettall. Some say the heads represent sacrificial offering. Others thinkthey portray the elite Olmec ancestors.
These heads have also beeninterpreted as being warriors or ball players. Basalt was also used tocarve thrones. The Olmec used art to glorify rulers by making themmonuments of super natural creatures to portray them such as part human,part beast. The beast was usually the jaguar. It is believed that thesemonuments were annihilated after the death of the leader.
The figurinesmade of jade were small and sexless. Some of the more elaborate statueswore extensive headdress with a long train, and rectangular chestplates, sat cross-legged, leaned forward and looked straight ahead. In conclusion the Olmec, Mesoamerica’s first civilization were amother culture to other civilizations. They had many beliefs, and hadearly achievements in elaborate art.
The article, “New light on theOlmec,” was an interesting article but it was very repetitive. It isscarcely recommended.