Olmec Culture 1200-400 B.C.

Aztec legends, recorded in the 16th century, described the inhabitants of Mexico's southern Gulf Coast as Olmeca, "people of the Rubber country". The real name by which these ancient people knew themselves is now long forgotten.

Among the first and most distinctive of the early complex societies to rise in Mesoamerica, the Olmec began as a dispersed society of hunters, fishers, and planters, but eventually established a sophisticated society that included rulers, warriors, long-distance traders, inspired stone carvers and craftsmen, and master town planners in addition to common folk. Their impressive carved monuments and fine art and craft work in jade, pottery and wood express the natural elements of water, earth and sky which inspired the later civilizations of Mesoamerica.  Their complex religious iconography and rituals, including ceremonial ball games, blood-letting, and human sacrifice were likewise adapted by future Mesoamerican civilizations.

The Olmec are recognized for their massive carved basalt images of their rulers and supernaturals. Numerous colossal basalt heads, altars, and other carved monuments have been uncovered at the three principal Olmec centers of San Lorenzo, La Venta, and Tres Zapotes; located in southern Veracruz and eastern Tabasco. Seventeen of the heads, some weighing more
than 20 tons, have been excavated at these sights, located up to 90 miles (approximately 150km) away from their original basalt sources on the flanks of the Tuxtlas Mountains.

The Olmec center of La Venta grew to be a large town with a population of as many as 20,000 persons. This center was centered on an enormous pyramid that may have been the largest structure of its time in all of Mesoamerica.

Olmec influence spread as far as modern Guatemala, Honduras, Belize , Costa Rica, and El Salvador.

Written by Indio

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