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.