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The Olmecs – Who They Were, Where They Came From Still Remains A Mystery

The Olmec is the oldest lost civilization of Mesoamerica. Not much is known about them and their mysterious culture seen as the Mother Civilization of Mesoamerica

The Olmecs arose suddenly and it’s still a bit difficult to locate the civilization in time.

Image credit: http://www.sfgate.com

According to historians, the Olmecs were keen on farming, which began around 5100 – 4600 BC. However, they flourished around 1400 BC just near the Bay of Campeche off the Gulf of Mexico.

Evidence of their presence can also be seen in places like Puebla, Morelos, Guerrero, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

The Olmec portrayed Africans. For this reason, it is believed that Africans played an important rule during their civilization. Probably, their rulers were African.

What’s more, they got the nickname Olmeca (‘Rubber People’)  because the area where they were situated was most known for the rubber trees around.

The Olmec built many thrones and monuments. They even carved 50-tons sized heads that were then transported to the Olmec heartland, 62 miles away.

As we mentioned earlier, the Olmecs still remains a mystery. Some believe that they represented Mongoloid people. Some others relate their origin to Africa. However, nothing can be said for sure about their true origin.

Mexican anthropologists believe that the Olmecs were actually indigenous Mesoamericans. They simply resembled Africans.

On the other hand, research done by Ivan Van Sertima (1935-2009), a Guyanese-born associate professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University in the United States proved the presence of cultural African origin:

“A study of the Olmec civilization reveals elements that so closely parallel ritual traits and techniques in the Egypto-Nubian world of the same period that it is difficult to maintain [that] all these are due to mere coincidence.”

Now, the question arises: Who were these Africans who moved all the way across the world before Columbus made the great discovery?

San Lorenzo’s Olmec head discovered by M.W. Stirling and his archaeological expedition.

Regarding their influence in the area, the Olmec were quite noted for their ceremonies and art style, including the 17 colossal stone heads – with no bodies!

Credits: Christopher von Nagy.

The gigantic stone heads were around 25 tons and had a height of up to 3.5 meters. They might look alike, but they’re slightly different from each other. There have been found 10 of them at San Lorenzo so far.

They are made of hard volcanic basalt mined which was then transported from around 50 miles away.

The Mexican traveler Jose Maria Melgar y Serrano, in the hacienda Hueyapán (Tres Zapotes, Veracruz) discovered the first of the heads accidentally in 1862. He knew immediately that it resembled the characteristics of an African man.

If the historians are correct, the Black Africans sailed across the Atlantic Ocean many, many years before Columbus. But when exactly did they arrive in Mexico?

The first excavations concluded that their origin was 250 BC. Then, other excavated sites proved that wrong, shifting the oldest date a little under 4,000 years ago.

Whenever their origin, they built complex urban centers and great pyramidical structures. They even made some great discoveries, such as the concept of Zero and positional numbers. What’s more, they were the first to introduce hieroglyphic writing to Mesoamerica. They were only the first ones who used the calendar in Mesoamerica as well as studying astronomy and mathematics.

Olmec clay toys, equipped with wheels, Anthropological Museum of the University of Veracruz, Jalapa, Mexico

They were the first in Mesoamerica to have a calendar, religion, the study of astronomy and mathematics, stone masonry and farming.

Sabas Whittaker, M.F.A. in his book ‘Africans In The Americas Our Journey Throughout The World’. wrote:

“From an ancient stela found in Izapa, it is clear that the Olmec recognized the Tree of Life. This stela also confirms that the Olmec were some black people who came to Mexico in ships made of barks and landed at Pontochan… these people are frequently depicted in the Mayan books and writings carrying trade goods, the tree also depicts seven branches and twelve roots,”

Friar Diego de Landa (1524 – 1579), both the most important early destroyer and preserver of knowledge on the preconquest Maya of Yucatán wrote:

“Some old men of Yucatan say that they heard from their ancestors that this country was peopled by a certain race who came from the EAST, who God delivered by opening for them twelve roads through the sea.”

What do you think their origin was? Let us know in the comments below!

HT: Ancient Pages

Written by Ketrin Ulbrich

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