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Olmec Civilization by Dr. S.N. Suresh

Olmec Civilization by Dr. S.N. Suresh

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Published by: drsnsuresh on Apr 19, 2010
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09/13/2011

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Olmec Civilization
{Believed to be Native Americans}
By
Dr. S.N. Suresh
 
OlmecThe Olmec were an ancientPre-Columbiancivilization living in thetropical  lowlands of south-centralMexico, in what are roughly the modern-daystatesof  VeracruzandTabasco. The Olmec flourished duringMesoamerica'sFormativeperiod, dating roughly from 1400BCEto about 400 BCE. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laidmany of the foundations for the civilizations that followed.
Among other "firsts",there is evidence that the Olmec practicedritual bloodlettingand played theMesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamericansocieties.The most familiar aspect of the Olmecs is their artwork, particularly the aptly-named colossal heads.
In fact, the Olmec civilization was first defined throughartifacts purchased on the pre-Columbian art market in the late 19th and early 20thcenturies. Olmec artworks are considered among ancient America's most strikingand beautiful, and among the world's masterpieces.
OverviewTheOlmec heartlandwhere the Olmecs reigned from 1400 - 400 BCE.The "Olmec heartland" is an archaeological term used to describe an area in theGulf lowlands that is generally considered the birthplace of the Olmec culture. Thisarea is characterized by swampy lowlands punctuated by low hills, ridges, and
 
volcanoes. TheTuxtlas Mountainsrise sharply in the north, along the Gulf of Mexico'sBay of Campeche. Here the Olmecs constructed permanent city-templecomplexes atSan Lorenzo Tenochtitlán,La Venta,Tres Zapotes, andLaguna de los  Cerros.In this region, the first Mesoamerican civilization would emerge and reignfrom c.1400–400 BCE.
OriginsWhat we today call Olmec first appears within the city of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán,where distinctive Olmec features appear around 1400 BCE. The rise of civilizationhere was assisted by the local ecology of well-wateredalluvialsoil, as well as by thetransportation network that theCoatzacoalcos Riverbasin provided. Thisenvironment may be compared to that of other ancient centers of civilization: theNile,Indus,andYellow Rivervalleys, andMesopotamia. This highly productive environment encouraged a densely concentrated population which in turn triggeredthe rise of aneliteclass.
It was this elite class that provided the social basis for theproduction of the symbolic and sophisticated luxury artifacts that define Olmecculture.
Many of these luxury artifacts, such as jade,obsidianandmagnetite,came from distant locations and suggest that early Olmec elites had access to an extensivetrading network in Mesoamerica. Thesource of the most valued jade, for example,is found in theMotagua Rivervalley in easternGuatemala,
and Olmec obsidianhas been traced to sources in the Guatemala highlands, such as El Chayal andSan Martín Jilotepeque, or inPuebla,
 distances ranging from 200 to 400 km away (120- 250 miles away) respectively.
La VentaThe first Olmec center, San Lorenzo, was all but abandoned around 900 BCE atabout the same time that La Venta rose to prominence.
A wholesale destruction of many San Lorenzo monuments also occurredcirca950 BCE, which may point to aninternal uprising or, less likely, an invasion.
The latest thinking, however, is thatenvironmental changes may have been responsible for this shift in Olmec centers,with certain important rivers changing course.

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