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Olmec Civilization, Collapse of the

The Olmec people lived in the regions of Veracruz and Tabasco along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico between 1200 to 400 BC. The collapse of the Olmec civilization is recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History at 300 BC. San Lorenzo was the first center of this civilization, but it was abandoned many years later for La Venta and finally, for Tres Zapotes.

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The cause of the collapse of the Olmec civilization had not been determined, but there were several theories why the people and their culture disappeared. One of the reasons why this great Mesoamerican culture disappeared was the rise of the Maya cacao trade in 800 BC. This diverted the routes that brought the prized cacao into the Olmec-dominated area.

Olmec_decline
“Olmec tomb at La Venta Park”

Internal problems, such as rebellion of the people, or the overthrow of a ruler, and warfare with neighboring peoples were also possible reasons for their decline. Because of this, the monuments in Olmec centers in San Lorenzo and La Venta were defaced and buried. The buildings in these sites were also destroyed.

The region experienced big changes in the environment at the time of the collapse. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions caused rivers to shift. These movements deprived the people of water supplies they needed for their farms. The Central Valley of Mexico experienced many volcanic activities between 500 BC to 250 BC, and an Olmec citadel was also destroyed. The areas where the Olmecs lived were covered with lava flow after the eruption, so they fled the area and never returned.

References:
Fiedel, Stuart J. Prehistory of the Americas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987
Bulliet, Richard W., Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, and David Northrup. The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History. Wadsworth Publishing
Childress, David Hatcher. The Mystery of the Olmecs. Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2007
Picture By JETOVARFlickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1724920
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