Olmecs, Ancient American Civilization with African Characteristics
When we speak about ancient Mexico, the first civilizations that come to mind are the Maya, the Incas, and the Aztecs. It wasn’t until the 1930s when a mysterious civilization was discovered that preceded any other advanced civilization in the Americas. Now known as the Olmecs, they occupied the land of Olman and Tenochtitlan was the capitol. They were the first major pre-Columbian civilization in central-south Mexico, and continue to puzzle archaeologists and historians all over the world.
Olmecs are believed to have lived between about 1500 to 1700 BCE. They are considered to be the first people in the western hemisphere to use a written language, to cultivate the cacao tree, and to invent the ball game! They are also the originators of the long count calendar which was later used by the Mayans—who, by the way, also used the Olmec writing system. They developed a highly sophisticated political & social system, as well as agriculture, pyramids, astronomy and arts. They even built raised platforms to cope with floods.
The most interesting aspect of the Olmecs is that they are depicted with European and African characteristics. This has led to speculations that they immigrated to Olman via some kind of transportation - probably by boat, which has been a major point of conflict between archaeologists since no one in this era was capable of travelling such distances by ocean. Mainstream archaeology, therefore, believes that the Olmec civilization arose from the people in that area.
Unfortunately, there are no writings like the ‘ Popol Vuh’ to tell us more about the Olmecs and their religion, although findings show that emphasis was probably placed on the sun. What happened to the Olmecs is still a mystery, as they disappeared much the same way that they appeared.