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(ōl`mĕk), term denoting the culture of ancient Mexican natives inhabiting the tropical coastal plain of the contemporary states of Veracruz and Tabasco, between 1300 and 400 B.C. The term is also used to refer to contemporaneous groups in highland regions of Mesoamerica (including the states of Oaxaca, Morelos, Guerrero, and the Federal District) who possessed ceramic or sculptural designs similar to those found in the lowlands. The nature of the relationship between the highland and lowland groups remains unclear. The largest and best known Olmec sites are situated along rivers on the coastal plain and include San Lorenzo (1300–900 B.C.) and Tres Zapotes (1000–400 B.C.) in Veracruz, and La Venta (1000–600 B.C.) in Tabasco. At the time of their apogee, these three settlements were probably the most complex "ceremonial" sites found in Mesoamerica. For this reason, the Olmec are often considered to be the cultura madre (mother culture) of later Mesoamerican civilizations. The Olmec were renowned for their sculpting skills and distinctive motifs, leaving numerous carved stelae, as well as freestanding jade and basalt sculptures. Among the more notable examples are numerous sculptured heads of basalt, weighing as much as 40 tons and standing up to 10 ft (3 m) in height. The basalt used for these carvings came from up to 50 mi (80 km) away and was floated to the riverine settlements on rafts. Earthen platforms and pyramidal mounds were also common features of the settlements. The largest single pyramid, found at La Venta, measures 459 ft (140 m) in diameter and 98 ft (30 m) in height. The Olmec economy centered around agricultural production on fertile floodplains, and was supplemented by fishing and shellfishing. By 400 B.C., the distinctive features of Olmec culture disappeared and the region was overshadowed by the emerging central Mexican and MayanMaya
, indigenous people of S Mexico and Central America, occupying an area comprising the Yucatán peninsula and much of the present state of Chiapas in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, parts of El Salvador, and extreme western Honduras.
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See M. Coe and R. Diehl, The Land of the Olmec (Vol. 2, 1980); R. J. Sharer and D. C. Grove, ed., Regional Perspectives on the Olmec (1989).

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References in periodicals archive ?
100: The Maya of northern Guatemala adopt the word "cacao" from the Olmec. The tree is presumably coming into cultivation among the Maya as well.
(In 1 16th-century example, a large crucifix was made of corn paste using a pre-Columbian technique; in a Siqueiros piece, a Mexican peasant has an Olmec mask for a face.) The survey stops at 1950; for later work, try Artes de Mexico.
However, that does not make the Mayan civilization older than the Olmec civilization--since Olmec had another center prior to La Venta--nor does it prove that the Mayan civilization developed entirely independently.
However, it could not be concluded that the Maya civilization is older than the Olmec civilization as it had another center prior to La Venta.
There is no denying the striking similarities between Ceibal and La Venta, such as evidence of similar ritual practices and the presence of similar architecture - namely the pyramids that would come to be the hallmark of Mesoamerican civilization but did not exist at the earlier Olmec center of San Lorenzo.
Olmec Technical Director, Robert Pounder, commented: "The Quality Station range offers a fresh approach to in-line vision inspection.
One of those "orthodox" scholars, Dr Micheal Coe, once of the Department of Anthropology at Yale University in the USA, a leading authority on South America, reasoned that the thick lips and broad nose of the Olmec heads (including the Colossal Head), were due to the fact that the sculptors did not want to create "protruding or thin facial features that might break off".
Saddle Brook, NJ, February 04, 2012 --(PR.com)-- Hudson Horizons is pleased to announce the launch of Olmec Systems, a technology systems integrator that offers a variety of IT solutions like cloud services, data backup, business continuity and disaster recovery.
Using the Clip & Save Art Print as a jumping-off point, have students research examples of monumental sculpture from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as non-Western civilizations, such as the Chinese, the Olmec, the Mayans, etc.
Aubrey Williams's Codex II, 1986; and, below, Night and the Olmec, 1983, from his Olmec-Maya series [umlaut] Estate of Aubrey Williams