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The Olmecs

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Erin Aust

on 21 March 2014

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Transcript of The Olmecs

Who were they?
The Olmecs were the first great Mesoamerican civilization. They thrived along Mexico’s gulf coast from around 1200 to 400 B.C.. The Olmecs were known mainly for being great artists and traders who dominated early Mesoamerica(mainly recognized with their carved colossal heads). The Olmecs also had a great influence on later cultures such as the Aztecs and the Maya.
The Olmecs
Olmec People
Government and Structure
The Olmec cities were ruled by a family of ruler-shamans who had major power over their subjects. For example, this can be seen in their public works such as the colossal heads. The Olmecs eventually established a highly complex political government.
The Environment
Thrived mainly along Mexico’s gulf coast, mostly in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco
Its Decline and Fall
The Olmec society slowly began to vanish around 400 B.C.. Olmec cities were soon overtaken by the jungles. Why the Olmec declined is still not really know, but the most common thought of how was that it may have beem caused by a climate change, considering the Olmecs were dependent on a few basic crops and climate change could have affected their harvests. Another belief of how it declined was at the hands of human action, such as warfare, over-farming or deforestation.
Trade and Production
The Olmec were great traders who mostly traded celts, masks, figurines and small statues with places from Central America to the Valley of Mexico Their trading skills helped their culture expand to many other civilizations.

Commoners of the Olmec citizens mainly worked in the fields producing crops. Occasionally, jobs appeared when a massive amount of manpower was needed to move massive boulders to the workshops where sculptors. There was also many who worked as sculptor, artists, or architectures to create materials that were wither traded or used in their own society.
Social Classes
Little is known about the Olmec social class structure, however it is believed that the Olmecs' social structure was composed of two groups-the main population, which was the commoners, and the elite. The common people worked on farms or with the irrigation systems in rural areas, supplying food for the population. The elite class consisted of rulers, religious figures, and skilled artisans/ craftsmen. In order to gain power or authority, rulers would often say they have some relation a god. In addition, the Olmecs are not believed to have had any sort of military.
Among many other things, the Olmecs were greatly noted as being amazing artisans. One of their most famous creations were these colossal heads: the massive stone heads, thought to represent rulers, stood several feet high and weigh tons. The Olmecs also made massive stone thrones which were squarish blocks with carvings on the sides. They as well made large and small sculptures and celts, figurines and masks.
To the Olmec, there were three parts of the universe: first was the earth, which was represented by the Olmec Dragon; second, the watery underworld which was the realm of the Fish Monster; and third was the Skies, which were the home of the Bird Monster. In addition to these three gods, there was believed to be five more: the Maize God, the Water God, the Feathered Serpent, the Banded-eye God and the were-jaguar.
The Olmecs were of course known for their amazing sculptures and art made of rock, but they also built aqueducts and created a man-made pyramid at La Venta.
Writing and Technology
The Olmec script is a logo syllabic script, meaning it had both syllabic and hieroglyphic script. There are two forms of Olmec hieroglyphic writing-the pure hieroglyphics (picture signs) and the phonetic hieroglyphics(combination of syllabic and logo graphic signs.
One of their major and well known innovations w the development of a working irrigation system.
Olmec homes were were very simpleand usually consisted of one large building made of stone, wood, or mud. This served as a place to sleepand eat.
Criteria for Civilization
The Olmec civilization does qualify as a Pre-Colombian society in that it seems to have all the qualities listed. Such as that it did have control based off of kinship, but then began to have a very strong political government.
You can apply criteria used to define a civilization to the pre-Colombian societies in that these pre-Colombian societies were first created based off of this civilization guidelines. So in order for them to be considered either a pre-Colombian society or a civilization, they should meet the guidelines.
"The Ancient Olmec Civilization." The Ancient Olmec
Civilization. N.p., 2006. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Cartwright, Mark. "Olmec Civilization." N.p., 30 Apr. 2013.
Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Minister, Chris. "The Olmec." About.com Latin American
History. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.
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