Home History 10 things you should know about the ancient Olmecs

10 things you should know about the ancient Olmecs

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Archaeologists estimate that the period of existence of the Olmecs was between 200 and 500 thousand years before Christ. According to several studies, there were three areas where the ancient Olmecs focused their reign, these were mainly San Lorenzo, Veracruz; Tabasco Sale and Tres Zapotes, close to Santiago Tuxtla, Veracruz.

The great Olmec civilization is mainly noted for their giant heads, which have become a giant mystery ever since their discovery. To date, researchers have not been able to understand how the ancient Olmecs managed to create these giant heads and what was their exact use.

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A map showing the principal settlements of the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica (modern-day Mexico) which flourished from c. 1200-300 BCE.

Here we have ten things that you should know about the ancient Olmec:

Archaeologists haven clue what the original name of this ancient civilization was. The name “Olmec” comes from the Aztec language which means rubber people. This ancient civilization has a completely unknown origin. some researchers like to believe that this ancient civilization got to the Americas by chance. Some have even suggested that this great civilization originated in ancient Sumer.

Wit and mystery are two of the qualifiers for the “Olmec heads.” They are a true mystery to researchers who are unable to decipher their meaning and the way how the ancient Olmecs managed to quarry, transport and design such large pieces of rocks. The first discovery was made in 1862 and several years later, in 1925, the giant heads were considered a rarity. The Giant Olmec heads usually show two ears with pierced lobes and what looks like a helmet.

So far, researchers have found about 50 sites with traces of the Olmecs. Scholars believe that their three main areas were placed strategically. “La Venta” is placed under a North-South axis which has a deviation of eight degrees west relative to true north. It allows incredible astronomical observations from the top of a conical pyramid. This points to the fact that the ancient Olmecs were incredible astronomers.

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This ‘wrestler’ from La Venta has clear Asian characteristics: The beard is not found in the Amerindian genotype.

One of the most mysterious findings is a 3.5 cm hematite bar that has caused mixed reactions among researchers. When placed on water its axis points towards the north. According to researchers from the university of Michigan, this device was a compass. This changes a lot in history since it would mean that the ancient Olmecs are the inventors of the compass and no the Chinese as previously thought. The device is believed to have been used to position their constructions facing north.

At the archaeological site of “La Venta,” researchers have found hundreds of artistically engraved jade objects. All were found buried in long, deep trenches that had been filled with several layers of clay from different regions. This points to the fact that the ancient Olmecs were incredibly skilled manufacturers. A dog with “wheels” is considered as the best example of the advanced knowledge of the Olmecs. Some researchers attribute the invention of the wheel to the ancient Olmecs.

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It is believed that the Olmecs invented the wheel. This toy is a demonstration of their incredible knowledge, way ahead of their time.

The ancient Olmecs used to make toys. Some of the remains that have been found show that the Olmecs used to carve different types toys. A rare and mysterious example can be found at the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa. The object seems to depict an elephant, an animal which did not exist at that time in America. This subject reinforces the theory that the inhabitants of this civilization came from Africa.

The “Cascajal block” is considered as one of the most mysterious and oldest Latin text. It consists of 62 symbols, some of which are repeated four times. Scientists have tried to explain and decipher it but without success. It is thought that this could be a new “Rosetta Stone” which hides many hidden messages and secrets.

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The ancient serpentine tablet (The Cascajal Block) is dated to around 900 B.C. It is the oldest accepted example of writing in the New World, scientists say.

Just like the Aztecs and the Maya, the ancient Olmecs disappeared into the mists of history. At the beginning of the Christian era and for no apparent reason, it is believed that the Olmecs gradually abandoned their sites. The people who settled into the Olmec sites acted in a vengeful spirit, tearing down the Olmec sculptures.

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The Ancient Olmecs are believed to have received “divine support.” Some of the legends say that they made their incredible constructions with the help of “beings that came from the clouds”, these beings are called “Nosoobi.”