The Olmecs first emerged within Mexican history in 1400BC. It is thought that the first evidence of the Mesoamerican Civilization can be traced back to the city of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan.
The early communities constructed large cities and ceremonial temples here. They built similar structures in La Venta and Laguna de los Cerros.
The environment and ecology within these areas were instrumental to the later growth in population of the Olmecs. The majority of people lived in small villages. Individual houses were built within relative proximity to each other.
A typical village would usually be located near a river and would often be on high ground. The surrounding fields would be used to grow and cultivate crops. Typical diets were quite varied and could include maize, beans, fish, snake, rabbit, raccoon and deer.
It is possible to examine the cultural practices of the early Latin American civilization within the distinctive style of their remaining art and craft work.
The iconic colossal heads offer an insight and understanding into the significant artistic ability of the Olmecs. Over fifteen of these impressive sculptures have been discovered so far within the confines of the map of Mexico.
They generally range between one and three meters in height.
Some people think that the Colossal heads were portraits of the rulers throughout society.
They were constructed using extremely heavy volcanic basalt boulders.
It would have taken a
long time and a lot of people to create these commanding sculptures.
Craft work at this time in history, would have been produced using a range of materials, including basalt, clay, greenstone and jade. The subject of Olmec art could range from standard human portraits to Mexican animals and exaggerated mythical creatures. There are mysterious religious meanings and iconography associated with some of the artwork.
Many historians and archaeologists over the years have suggested that the earliest incarnation of the Mesoamerican ballgame originated during the time of the Olmecs. The Mesoamaerican Ball Game is usually associated within the time frame of the early Maya civilization.
The first ball-court itself was discovered around 1400BC.
The ball was made from rubber, in fact the name of the Olmecs can be translated (in an ancient Aztec language) as 'the rubber people'.
It has also been suggested that this community were the first to develop a writing system in the Western Hemisphere and the first to produce a long count calendar. These are all impressive feats, however it has yet to be proven whether these theories are actually correct. The eventual demise of the Olmecs occurred between 350 to 400BC.
There is no specific evidence or explanation as to why the population dropped so significantly. It is thought though that extreme changes in the environmental conditions in the surrounding areas would have forced the people to move on and separate from each other.
You can find a range of other historical information at mexicanhistory.org
Return to The History of Mexico