Olmec: Incredible Mesoamerican Art

On October 2, 2014 by Tim Newman

Olmec Art - Colossal Head

The Olmec people, active from around 1500-400 BCE, weren’t the earliest “civilised” culture in the Americas but they did win quite a few “firsts” along the way. The Olmec left their mark on history with a stylish and modern looking collection of art before virtually disappearing.

Their impressive art in conjunction with the vanishing trick has given them a pretty cool reputation in the right sort of ancient history circles.

Olmec Art - Fish Vessel

The Soconusco predate the Olmec, but the Olmec are considered the first “major” civilisation in the Americas having inspired much of the culture that came after their demise. They are considered the first Mesoamericans to have played the ballgame – Ōllamaliztli – which became a hallmark of Mesoamerican culture. This game was played throughout Mesoamerican history and rubber balls dating back to 1600 BC have been unearthed in an Olmec bog.

Olmec Art - Head - La Venta

The Olmec are considered by many to be the inventors of the compass, human sacrifice, writing (at least in the Western hemisphere), the number zero, the Mesoamerican calendar and possibly some of their deities too.

Olmec Art - Head 1946 San Lorenzo - Mexico

Above and below we see one of the impressive heads being released from its grave in 1946 in San Lorenzo, Mexico…

Olmec Art - Head 1946 San Lorenzo

The Olmec are thought to have grown in number thanks to organised farming in the Tabasco region (yeah, I only just found out Tabasco is a Mexican state as well as a sauce). Good quality soil and a useful river network tempted a high population of humans to congregate and live. Wherever there’s a whole bunch of humans, an upper class of society will almost inevitably develop.


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