Category Archives: Olmec

Back to the Olmec (2)

Olmec_mask_in jade 802OLMEC ART AT DUMBARTON OAKS
Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, No. 2
by Karl A. Taube, 2004 (Edited)

See part 1

The Olmec of Early Formative San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo, Veracruz, appears to have been the preeminent Early Formative Olmec center.

The Ojochi phase (1500–1350 B.C.) marks the earliest pottery at San Lorenzo, and is roughly contemporaneous with the Mokaya Barra phase ceramics, of which it shares many traits (Blake et al. 1995: 168).

The nearby site of El Manatí reveals that, by the Ojochi phase, elaborate rites concerning water, rain, and, likely, agriculture were already being performed in the Olmec heartland. A freshwater spring at the base of Cerro Manatí was a locus of ritual activity that included the deposition of offerings in the water during much of the Early Formative period. Among the earliest items placed in the sacred spring were fine jadeite celts and rubber balls (Ortíz and Rodríguez 1994: 78, 86; 2000). Continue reading

Back to the Olmec

Olmec-San_Lorenzo_Monument_3_cropOLMEC ART AT DUMBARTON OAKS
by Karl A. Taube, 2004 (Edited)



José María Melgar y Serrano (1869) had published the first account of an Olmec monument, a colossal stone head, Monument A, at the site of Tres Zapotes, but Melgar y Serrano saw [African] features and linked the figure to Africa, rather than recognizing it as a product of Pre-Columbian peoples. Subsequently, Alfredo Chavero (1887) also identified the head as [African], but additionally noted that a motif on the brow resembled certain Asian signs. To this day, the Olmec continue to be traced to the distant regions of Africa and China. Continue reading

Olmecs of Old Mexico

The Olmecs

[This article does not mention the Olmecs being African (or at least of African descent). 7M]

The Olmecs are deemed the first major civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco.

The name “Olmec” comes from the Nahuatl word for the Olmecs: Ōlmēcatl (singular) or Ōlmēcah (plural). This word is composed of the two words ōlli, meaning “rubber”, and mecatl, meaning “rope” or “people”, so the word means “rubber lineage or people”. [Olmecs: ol means old (ancient), and mecs means mex (mexico/mexicans). 7M]

The Tuxtlas Mountains rise sharply in the north, along the Gulf of Mexico’s Bay of Campeche. Here the Olmec constructed permanent city-temple complexes at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, and Laguna de los Cerros. In this region, the first Mesoamerican civilization emerged and reigned from c. 1500–400 BCE. The rise of civilization was assisted by the local ecology of well-watered alluvial soil, as well as by the transportation network provided by the Coatzacoalcos River basin.


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