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Related to Olmecs: Aztecs, Mayans, Zapotecs, Toltecs


(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 ?
They marvelled at the mysterious Olmec boulder heads, which still radiate brutal power, and at the reconstruction of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan, with its heavily stylised carvings of Quetzalcoatl, the bird-serpent god (Fig.
But the poison is also an enormously powerful spiritual medicine once used by the Olmecs (the earliest civilization in Central America), a medicine that scientists now identify as 5-Me0-DMT.
Gossen, "From Olmecs to Zapatistas: A Once and Future History of Souls," American Anthropologist, 96, no.
For example, in the single page she devotes to Olmecs, she spends a whole paragraph describing their ritual ball-game without connecting it to anything else in the narrative (150-51).
Like the ancient Olmecs, I know Earth is a coiled Serpent.
Homer greedily anticipates that Burns will shower his family with riches, but instead Burns presents the Simpsons with a massive stone head carved by ancient Olmecs, called Xtapolapocetl.
Ortiz-Franco points to the earliest evidence of numerical inscriptions using positional systems of bars and dots which have been traced to the Olmecs (from Mesoamerica, the geographical region that encompasses the area from northern-central Mexico to northern Costa Rica) in approximately 1,200 B.C.
The event, which includes chocolatier exhibitions and samples from World Chocolate Awards winners, is at Kensington Olympia between November 1 and 5.: Chocolate-the facts:Three to four thousand years ago, the Olmecs - the first known to use cacao which grew wild in Central America - started it all off, followed by other Central American (Mesoamerican) peoples like the Maya and then the Aztecs from the 10th century AD to the 1520s.
A black Guyanian who arrived in this country in 1970, van Sertima supposed that the ancient Nubians were responsible for sending an expedition from Africa that landed in Central America and, subsequently, influenced the development of the ancient Olmecs, predecessors of the Mayas and Aztecs.
We know that cocoa was used by the Olmecs as early as 1000BC.