The Olmec people lived in the south central part of Mexico, the states of Vera Cruz and Tabasco. The Olmec heartland is considered to be where the land is fertile and surrounded by rivers. They were known to the Aztec people (in their Nahuatl language) as the ‘rubber people’ because they harvested rubber from rubber trees and used it in their ceremonial ball games. The Olmecs flourished in 1400 B.C. and disappeared around 400 B.C. Their uniting of Mesoamerica is recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History between 829-804 BC.
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The Olmec culture is considered as the mother culture or sister culture of Mesoamerican civilizations including the Maya and the Aztec. They are known for their legacies which include the writing system in the form of glyphs (similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics), realistic stone carvings, and a pyramid at La Venta. The colossal heads discovered in the Olmec heartland of Veracruz and Tabasco are spectacular pieces of art that rise up to 10 feet and weigh as much as 20 tons. The heads feature helmets, wide noses, thick lips, square jaws, and wide faces.
The Olmecs were also master craftsmen. They carved jade face masks with almost the same features as the colossal heads, although the purpose of these masks is still unknown. Other stone statues discovered by archeologists include a life-like wrestler figure, identical statues of twins facing a Jaguar recovered at El Azuzul, giant carved stone altar thrones, chubby baby statuettes, and carvings of were-jaguar sacrifices. Their design of their plazas and their ceremonial ball games were retained later on by the Maya and the Aztec peoples.
The Olmec civilization gradually disappeared around 400 B.C. for reasons still unknown.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Olmec.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
Picture By Mesoamerican – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46714671
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