The Olmec were the first major civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands on the Gulf of Mexico in the present-day Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. The name Olmec is a Nahuatl—the Aztec language—word; it means the rubber people.
While historians have speculated that the facial features of some monumental carved heads indicate an African origin of these people, most scholars believe that the Olmec, like other native Americans, descended from Asian ancestors who entered North America during the Great Ice Age.
Some historians assert that the Mayans were the descendants of the Olmecs.
All seventeen of the confirmed heads in the Olmec heartland were sculpted from basalt mined in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas mountains of Veracruz. Most were formed from coarse grained dark grey basalt known as Cerro Cintepec basalt after a volcano in the range.
The Olmec were American Indians, not Negroes (as Melgar had thought) or Nordic supermen.”
The Olmecs studied astronomy and developed a system of writing and mathematics. They were the first Mesoamerican culture to build pyramids. Their calendar and religious beliefs appear to have influenced later cultures. In fact, many scholars call the Olmecs the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica.
The Sumerian civilization is the oldest civilization known to mankind. The term Sumer is today used to designate southern Mesopotamia. In 3000 BC, a flourishing urban civilization existed. The Sumerian civilization was predominantly agricultural and had community life.
With more than 5 thousand years old, Caral is considered the oldest civilization in the American continent. Between the years 3000 and 2500 B. C., the people from Caral began to form small settlements in what is now the province of Barranca, that interacted with each other to exchanged products and merchandise.
The End of the Olmec Civilization Around 400 B.C. La Venta went into decline and was eventually abandoned altogether. With the fall of La Venta came the end of classic Olmec culture. Although the descendants of the Olmecs still lived in the region, the culture itself vanished.
Like many early Mesoamerican cultures, the Olmec believed in three tiers of existence: the physical realm they inhabited, an underworld and a sky realm, home of most of the gods. Their world was bound together by the four cardinal points and natural boundaries such as rivers, the ocean and mountains.
Olmec, the first elaborate pre-Columbian civilization of Mesoamerica (c. 1200–400 bce) and one that is thought to have set many of the fundamental patterns evinced by later American Indian cultures of Mexico and Central America, notably the Maya and the Aztec.
The Maya were the most ancient by a wide margin. The culture was well established by 1000 BCE – over 2,000 years before the Incas and Aztecs. Both the Maya and Aztecs controlled regions of what is now Mexico.
The Olmec people are believed to have occupied a large part of modern-day Southern Mexico. The Olmec civilization is what is known as an archaeological culture.
The Mystery of the Olmec Heads Another key bone of contention surrounding the colossal Olmec heads comes from their distinctive facial features. Some theories suggest that the Olmecs were heavily influenced by early black civilisations, as a result of the supposedly African features the basalt heads possess.
Linguistic evidence has contributed to the ethnic identity of the archaeological Olmecs: they spoke a Mixe-Zoquean language. The Olmecs produced the earliest complex civilization in Mesoamerica (c. 1200–400 bce), and it was located mainly in the same area where Mixe-Zoquean languages are found.