2nd hour Olmecs 2011-2012


Introduction (Brett S.)

The Olmecs were the first American civilization. They were located on the Mexican Gulf Coast from 1400 to 500BC. Through trade the Olmecs influenced arts, carving (calendar and writing), and religious devotion on Middle American civilization. The Olmecs were a bright and creative civilization.
(Ellis and Esler, 1997, pp.159-160)

external image olmec-home.jpg

The heartland of the Olmecs. (Unknown, 2011)

Written/Language (Brett S.)

The Olmec people introduced writing to the New World. Their script is a logosyllabic script which means pictures are used as symbols for sounds to create words. The Olmecs had both a syllabic and hieroglyphics script. The hieroglyphics were broken into two types: the pure hieroglyphics or picture sign and the phonetic which is a combination of syllabic and logographic signs. The first symbols ever found were in 2002, and dated back to 650B.C. Learning to understand their writing has allowed researchers to better understand the Olmecs.

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQsLxUJDmuKQVGZ-5BIF6hRuWM5ndHoqDEswi2H4sJLnzYwLXgujQ
Example of glyphs used by the Olmec. (Lawrence, 1996-2010)

Religion (Brett S.)

The Olmec religion is very limited because there are no works of any kind to clearly explain their beliefs. It seems religious activities were led by rulers, full-time priests and shaman (messengers between human and spiritual world). The Olmec believed in Deities- gods and goddesses- supernatural beings. One example is the Feathered Serpent. (http://en.wikipedia/wiki/Olmec_religion)

external image featheredserpent_teotihuacan.jpg

The Feathered Serpent, one of the deities the Olmec people worshiped. (Crystal, 1995-2011)

Olmec Government-Lujuan Dukes

Each Olmec city had its own chief. (Ellis and Esler, 1997) They served as military leaders. Rulers were usually men. (Ellis and Esler, 1997) Priest held the great power because only they could conduct the elaborate ceremonies needed to ensure good harvest and success in war. (Ellis and Esler, 1997) The Priest King couldn’t control the competition occurring for resources and that could be a reason for the Olmec downfall. Olmecs were monarchies rather than a democracy-like government. (msrego.pbworks.com/.)

olmec%20head.jpgAncient head created by Olmec

Friedrich, 1993-2000
Olmec Jobs-Lujuan Dukes

Most men were farmers. Usually cultivated the crops. Women turned them into food. Hunted fish and collected. (Ellis and Esler, 1997) They jobs were manual labors and building. Specialized jobs were made to give people a better life. (Ellis and Esler,1997)

Muray, 1892-1965

Olmec Social Classes | Eric Hayden
The Olmec society was a hiarchy which had social classes based on wealth and power. Higher social class people were usual priest and had good part in the government. These people usually resided in cities with higher populations like San Lorenzo and La Venta. Next is the middle class people who were along the lines of a merchant or a craftsmen. Lastly we have the lowest class of people who were farmers and hunters. They lived in the country side and provided food for the cities.


Statues like this one are believed to be representations of wealthy people from the Olmec society.

Olmec Cities | Eric Hayden
Olmec civilization first began in San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán around 1400 BCE. San Lorenzo was the center of the Olmec civilization but was all abandoned around 900BCE. Around this same time La Venta began rising to power. Many people believed the downfall of San Lorenzo may have been due to an internal uprising, or possibly an invasion but then later people began believing that it was actually due to climate changes. The downfall of the Olmec people’ as a whole began between 400 and 350 BCE and although no one knows for sure it is believed to be as a result of drastic climate changes.

File:Olmec Heartland Overview 4.svg
File:Olmec Heartland Overview 4.svg

This is a map of Olmec cities.