|By 1500 b.c.e. the Olmec civilization boasted a capital with palaces, temples, and monuments built on a huge constructed platform
about 165 feet high and nearly 1 mile long. It was the first major civilization of Mesoamerica and is often called the “mother” civilization.
Situated primarily along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, the Olmec built large political and religious centers, created the first pyramids and
massive stone sculptured heads, presumably of their leaders. The name “Olmec” is actually derived from the Aztec language Nahuatl
which means “rubber people”. They were the first to build ceremonial temple mounds and live in a complex urban society.
|Many archaeologists have described the Olmec as a “pristine culture” as well, meaning they arose in isolation without the influence of
a previous civilization. There is still much speculation as to the origin of the Olmec. Many anthropologists believe there were
migrations from the west coast of Mexico in the State of Guerrro. Sites such as Tlatilco in the valley of Mexico and Chalcatzingo in
Morelos also reflect the influence of Olmec style art indicating their possible origins from these areas. From here the Olmec
migrated to the gulf coast region of Tabasco and Veracruz.
|As the originating civilization in Mesoamerica their influence will be felt in all of the civilizations to come. In religion, the temple
structures will be copied and improved, the cult of the jaguar will thrive as will human sacrifice. The creation of a calendar, possibly
connected to their advances in astronomy, will mark secular and sacred events. This calendar will be advanced by both the Maya and
Aztec. There is some evidence, though hotly contested, that there may have been a Chinese influence in the Olmec culture at some
point in their history. As the power of the Olmec declined (about 400 b.c.e), other centers began to grow.
|All photographs and other graphics are under copyright protection. Any reproduction of these images could lead to prosecution under
current copyright laws. This site is not responsible for any illegal use of this material and is only intended as a visual learning tool for