New Light On The Olmec Essay

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

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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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