The Olmec Civilization Essay, Research Paper
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