Olmec - Early American Civilization

Olmec - Early American Civilization

Author: Judy Anaquod

The students will know of the first known civilization in the Americas. . They will also know the governing structure, classes of society, religious and some accomplishments.

The Olmec lived about 5,000 years ago in Middle America.  It was a thriving and affluent society.  They disappeared.  It is not known why.

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The Olmec civilization is considered the earliest culture on the North and South American continents.

Source: Hirst, K.Kris. "Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations". "Roots of Society". 1992

Olmec - Notes

1. Olmec - this early civilization appeared about 3700 - 2700 B.C. in southern Mexico. There were 3 major cities.

2. Temples - pyramid shaped

3.  Plumbing systems - complex

4.  Trade - organized systems, huge markets

5.  Calendar - 365 1/4 days per year

6.  Art - giant sculpered heads of Olmec rulers.

7.  Agriculture -advanced agricultural knowledge, their main crop was corn.  Farming was done on

     diverse landscapes.

8.  Sports - a game with rubber balls on a huge court involved the whole population.

9.  Polytheistic - this society belied in may Gods.

10.  Social classes:

       a)  priest and rulers

       b)  artists, builders

       c)  farmers, warriors

11.  Evidence of human sacrifice and blood-letting - human remains found near or under monuments.

12.  Bitumen - a black, oily, viscous material , also know as tar, was used by the Olmec as an adhesive (canoes),    building and in decorative application to pots.

13.  In the First Century A.D., the Olmecs abandoned their cities..  Why?  That remains a mystery for archeologists to discover.

14.  Civilizations that followed the Olmec were the Maya, Toltec, Aztec, and Inca.


Source: Roots of Society. (1992) Hayden, Michael, delainey, William P., Farmer, david L., Johns, Maureen. Canada: Prentice-Hall.