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One of the earliest cultures of the America, the Olmec was one of the most influential Mesoamerican Cultures whose rule extended over 900 years (1200-300 BCE).


Social

  • Although we cannot be sure how developed Olmec society was due to their written language being undeciphered, from archaeological evidence we can know that the Olmecs and a prospering and complex society. The remains of Olmec cities demonstrate the differentiation between the social classes as the most prestigious buildings at the center of the city were reserved for the elites. Also the existence of large plaza like platforms in the middle of cities used for public rituals and political activities points to how devoloped their society was.


Political

  • The Olmecs had a complicated and well developed political system centered around a king, the priesthood, and a larger aristocratic upper class. Again, although we cannot know exactly how deep their political system was due to their writing system being yet undeciphered, large monuments like the Olmec heads and their irrigation system suggest an organized society capable of large public work projects. The Olmec heads, in fact, show the extent of their rule as the rock from which the 120 ton heads were quarried over 100km from where they were found.

Religious

  • Plazas at center of cities used for religious rituals, including blood letting and human sacrifice. Rituals served a vital purpose in uniting society
  • Polythiestic, their deities were male, female, and animal at once. Idea of ability to transform into animals closely associated with gods
  • Shamans served in everyday religious duties and also closely studied astronomy for their ritualsAMICO_DALLAS_103842578.jpg


Intellectual

  • Had a good understanding of astonomy due to religious need for calendar
  • Developed a system of writing
  • Ritual ball game played as an early sport



Technology

  • Irrigation and drainage canals, urbanization, many large monuments, agriculture and domestication of many plants



Economy

  • Agriculture focused on corne, beans, squash, and manioc.
  • Traded in salt, cacao, clay, limestone, obsidian, jade, pottery
  • An active merchant class who traded throughout Mesoamerica

Other Links

external image Olmec_Heartland_Overview_v2.svg