The Olmec
First Civilization of the Americas: 1200-250 B.C.E


A
art
h2_1977_187_33.jpg olmec-286x360.jpg
  • The Olmec were known for their exquisite art work, which included carved jade figurines, necklaces, ceremonial knives and axes, and giant head sculptures made from basalt.
  • Artisans traded for obsidian, jade, and pottery
  • Colassal size sulptures of indiviual kinship leaders were estimatd to be around 11 feet tall
S
social/culture
  • Elites lived in highly decorated homes and wore elegant jewlery and clothing
  • Commoners lived in "homes" made of stick and mud
  • Food sources were reliable for the commoners (diverse diet)
  • Shamans, people who believed they had a direct contact to a deitie (see religion), gave advice about agriculture and periodic rain to leaders
P
political
  • ´╗┐Not much is known about the Olmec poltical structure
  • "The rise of major urban centers coincided with the appearances of a form of kingship that combined religious and secular roles."
  • Leaders/Rulers were associaed with the jaguar
  • Leaders were able to direct the labor of thousands of people at a time
  • The earliest major center was San Lorenzo
R
religion
  • ´╗┐Small ceramic figurines, stone carvings, and utilitarian pots were associated with religious beliefs.
  • People became close to the gods from bloodletting and human sacrafices
  • Polytheistic: the beleif of multiple deities (supernatural immoral beings)
I
intellect
  • Created a calendar based on the observation of stars. It was used to organize ritual life and agriculture.
  • Produced a form of writing that influenced other civilizations such as the Mayan empire
T
technology
  • Domestication of corn (maize), beans, and squash
  • Irrigation and drainage canals (for farms)
E
environment
  • Rich plant diversity
  • Temperate climate
  • Geographic and climate diversity (earthquakes and volcanic eruptions)
  • Minerals: obsidian, quartz, and jade
crystal_map.jpg