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Olmecs

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Michelle Sandberg
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« on: January 25, 2007, 02:58:51 am »

The Olmec were an ancient Pre-Columbian people living in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, roughly in what are the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Their immediate cultural influence, however, extends beyond this region (Olmec artwork has been documented as far as El Salvador). The Olmec flourished during the Formative (or Preclassic), dating from 1200 BC to about 400 BC, and are believed to have been the progenitor civilization of later Mesoamerican civilizations.



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Michelle Sandberg
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2007, 03:00:50 am »

Overview

The Olmec Heartland is characterized by swampy lowlands punctuated by low hill ridges and volcanoes. The Tuxtlas Mountains rise sharply in the north, along the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche. Here the Olmecs constructed permanent city-temple complexes at several locations, among them San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, Laguna de los Cerros, and La Mojarra. They also had great influence beyond the heartland: from Chalcatzingo, far to the west in the highlands of Mexico, to Izapa, on the Pacific coast near what is now Guatemala, Olmec goods have been found throughout Mesoamerica during this period. In this heartland, the first Mesoamerican civilization would emerge and reign from 1200–400 BC.

The Olmec may have been the first civilization in the Western Hemisphere to develop a writing system. Symbols found in 2002 and 2006 date to 650 BC [1] and 900 [2] BC precede the oldest Zapotec writing, dated to about 500 BC. Many challenged the 2002 find, declaring that it was not writing. The 2006 finding is more intriguing, although there remains some skepticism because of the stone's singularity, the fact that it was found in a gravel pit out of any chronologic context, and because it bears no apparent resemblance to other MesoAmerican writing systems. There are other later hieroglyphs known as "Epi-Olmec", and while there are some who believe that Epi-Olmec may represent a transitional script between an earlier, unknown Olmec writing system and Maya writing, the matter remains unsettled.

The Olmec, whose name means "rubber people" (see below) in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, may have been the originators of the Mesoamerican ballgame so prevalent among later cultures of the region and used for recreational and religious purposes—certainly they were playing it before anyone else has been documented doing so.

 
Olmec HeartlandTheir religion developed all the important themes (an obsession with mathematics and with calendars, and a spiritual focus on death expressed through human sacrifice) found in successor groups. Finally, their political arrangements of strongly hierarchical city-state kingdoms were repeated by nearly every other Mexican and Central American civilization that followed.

While the actual ethnicity of the Olmec remains unknown, various hypotheses have been put forward. In 1976 Lyle Campbell and Terrence Kaufman published a paper which argued that the existence of a number of loanwords from a semantically very fundamental domain for Mesoamerican cultures [3]which have apparently spread from a Mixe-Zoquean language into many other Mesoamerican languages, can be seen as an indicator that the first "highly civilized society" of Mesoamerica spoke a language which is an ancestor of the Mixe-Zoquean languages, and that they spread their own vocabulary of terms particular for their culture to other peoples of Mesoamerica. Since the Mixe-Zoquean languages still are, and historically are known to have been, spoken in an area corresponding roughly to the "Olmec heartland", and since the Olmec culture is now generally regarded as the first "high culture" of Mesoamerica, it has generally been regarded as probable that the Olmec spoke a Mixe-Zoquean language. [4]



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Michelle Sandberg
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2007, 03:03:55 am »

Etymology of the name "Olmec"

The name "Olmec" means "rubber people" in Nahuatl, the language of the Mexica ("Aztec") people. It was the Aztec name for the people who lived in this area at the much later time of Aztec dominance. Ancient Mesoamericans, spanning from ancient Olmecs to Aztecs, extracted latex from Castilla elastica, a type of rubber tree in the area. The juice of a local vine, Ipomoea alba, was then mixed with this latex to create rubber as early as 1600 BC [5]. The word "Olmec" also refers to the rubber balls used for their ancient ball game. Early modern explorers applied the name "Olmec" to the rediscovered ruins and art from this area before it was understood that these had been already abandoned more than a thousand years before the time of the people the Aztecs knew as the "Olmec". It is not known what name the ancient Olmec used for themselves; some later Mesoamerican accounts seem to refer to the ancient Olmec as "Tamoanchan".


History

Early history


Olmec culture originated at its base in San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, where distinctively Olmec features begin to emerge around 1150 BC. The rise of civilization here was probably assisted by the local ecology of well-watered rich alluvial soil, encouraging high maize production. This ecology may be compared to that of other ancient centers of civilization: Mesopotamia and the Nile valley. It is speculated that the dense population concentration at San Lorenzo encouraged the rise of an elite class that eventually ensured Olmec dominance and provided the social basis for the production of the symbolic and sophisticated luxury artifacts that define Olmec culture. Many of these luxury artifacts, for example jade and magnetite, must have come from distant locations and suggests that early Olmec elites had access to an extensive trading network in Mesoamerica.


La Venta

The first Olmec center, San Lorenzo, was all but abandoned around 900 BC at about the same time that La Venta rose to prominence. Environmental changes may have been responsible for this move, with certain important rivers changing course. A wholesale destruction of many San Lorenzo monuments also occurred around this time, circa 950 BC, which may point to an internal uprising or, less likely, an invasion.[6]

In any case, La Venta was the most prominent Olmec center from 900 BC until its abandonment around 400 BC. During this period, the Great Pyramid and various ceremonial complexes were created at La Venta, and the baffling Massive Offerings and mosaics were buried.[7] Around 400 BCE, La Venta also came to an end, although the importance of the ceremonial complexes apparently outlasted the Olmec state or culture.


Decline

It is not known with any clarity what happened to the Olmec culture. The Tres Zapotes site continued to be occupied well past 400 BC, but without the hallmarks of the Olmec culture. Some researchers have labelled this period the "Epi-Olmec" culture. This post-Olmec culture has features similar to those found at Izapa, some distance to the southeast.

Within a few hundred years of the abandonment of the last Olmec cities, successor cultures had become firmly established, most notably the Maya to the east and the Zapotec to the southwest.


Beyond the heartland
Olmec-style artifacts, designs, figurines, monuments and motifs have been found in the archaeological records of sites hundreds of miles (or kilometers) outside the Olmec heartland. These sites include:

Tlatilco and Tlapacoya, major centers of the Tlatilco culture in the Valley of Mexico, where artifacts include hollow baby-face motif figurines and Olmec designs on ceramics.
Chalcatzingo, in Valley of Morelos, which features Olmec-style monumental art and rock art with Olmec-style figures.
Teopantecuanitlan, in Guerrero, which features Olmec-style monumental art as well as city plans with distinctive Olmec features.
Other sites showing possible Olmec influence include Abaj Takalik in Guatemala, and the Juxtlahuaca and Oxtotitlan cave paintings are attributed by many researchers[8]to the Olmecs.

Many theories have been advanced to account for the occurrence of Olmec influence far outside the heartland. Some such theories include long-range trade by Olmec merchants, Olmec colonization of other regions, Olmec artisans travelling to other cities, conscious imitation of Olmec artistical styles by developing towns -- and some also suggest Olmec military domination outside of their heartland.

According to the school of thought promoted by Christine Niederberger [9] and developed in particular by Caterina Magni [10], the Olmec culture was a multi-ethnic unit and pluri-linguistic culture covering a vast part of the Mesoamerica, in the period from 1200 BC to about 500 BC. Its presence is attested on old levels of occupation on the Coast of the Gulf, in the Valley of Mexico and along the Pacific coast in the States of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas. Beyond the Mexican borders, Olmec artifacts are found south to Costa Rica. Some major centers being San Lorenzo (Veracruz), La Venta (Tabasco), Chalcatzingo (Morelos), Teopantecuanitlán (Guerrero) and Abaj Takalik (or Takalik Abaj) in Guatemala.

This is contrast to the more traditional view that recognizes a distinct Olmec heartland (see map).


Olmec art
 
"The Grandmother", Monument 5 at La Venta (reproduction)Olmec artforms remain in works of both monumental statuary and small jadework. Much Olmec art is highly stylized and uses an iconography reflective of a religious meaning to the artworks. Some Olmec art, however, is surprisingly naturalistic, displaying an accuracy of depiction of human anatomy perhaps equaled in the pre-Columbian New World only by the best Maya Classic era art. Common motifs include downturned mouths and slit-like slanting eyes, both of which can be seen as representations of "were-jaguars". Olmec figurines are also found abundantly in sites throughout the Formative Period.

In addition to human subjects, Olmec artisans were adept at animal portrayals, for example, this ceramic ancient Olmec "Bird Vessel", dating to circa 1000 BC. Ceramics are produced in kilns capable of exceeding approximately 900° C. The only other prehistoric culture known to have achieved such high temperatures is that of Ancient Egypt [11].


Olmec colossal heads
Perhaps the best-recognized Olmec art are the enormous helmeted heads. As no known pre-Columbian text explains these, these impressive monuments have been the subject of much speculation. Given the individuality of each, these heads seem to be portraits of famous ball players or perhaps kings rigged out in the accoutrements of the game.

According to Grove,[12] the unique elements in the headgear can also be recognized in headdresses of human figures on other Gulf Coast monuments, suggesting that these are personal or group symbols.

The heads range in size from the Rancho La Corbata head, at 3.4 m high, to the pair at Tres Zapotes, at 1.47 m. Some sources estimate that the largest weighs as much as 40 tons, although most reports place the larger heads at 20 tons.

The heads were carved from single blocks or boulders of volcanic basalt, quarried in the Tuxtlas Mountains. The Tres Zapotes heads were sculpted from basalt found on San Martin Volcano. The lowland heads were possibly carved from the Cerro Cintepec, now known as Cerro San Martin Pajapan. It is possible that the heads were carried on large balsa rafts from the Llano del Jicaro quarry to their final locations, or more likely dragged and rafted down rivers. To reach La Venta, roughly 80 km (50 miles) away, the rafts would have had to move out onto choppy waters of the Bay of Campeche.

Some of the heads, and many other monuments, have been variously mutilated, buried and disinterred, reset in new locations and/or reburied. Whether these actions were undertaken as a ritual or as a result of a conflict or conflicts is yet to be decided.

There have been 17 colossal heads unearthed to date.

Site Count Designations
San Lorenzo 10 Colossal Heads 1 through 10
La Venta 4 Monuments 1 through 4
Tres Zapotes 2 Monuments A & Q
Rancho la Corbata[13] 1 Monument 1


Pottery and trade
In March 2005, a team of archaeologists used NAA (neutron activation analysis) to compare over 1000 ancient Mesoamerican Olmec-style ceramic artifacts with 275 samples of clay so as to "fingerprint" pottery origination. They found that "the Olmec packaged and exported their beliefs throughout the region in the form of specialized ceramic designs and forms, which quickly became hallmarks of elite status in various regions of ancient Mexico"[14].

In response, in August 2005 another study, this time using petrography, found that the "exchanges of vessels between highland and lowland chiefly centers were reciprocal, or two way." [15]. Five of the samples dug up in San Lorenzo were "unambiguously" from Oaxaca. According to one of the archaeologists conducting the study, this "contradicts recent claims that the Gulf Coast was the sole source of pottery" in Mesoamerica.

The results of the INAA study were later defended in March 2006 in two articles in Latin American Antiquity. Because the INAA sample is much larger than the petrographic sample (a total of over 1600 analyses of raw materials and clays vs. approximately 20 pottery thin sections in the petrographic study), the authors of the Latin American Antiquity papers argue that the petrographic study cannot possibly overturn the INAA study.



"The Grandmother", Monument 5 at La Venta (reproduction)

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Michelle Sandberg
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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2007, 03:05:32 am »

Religion
 
The back of Stela C from Tres Zapotes
This is the second oldest Long Count date yet discovered. The numerals 7.16.6.16.18 translate to September 3, 32 BCE (Julian). The glyphs surrounding the date are what is thought to be one of the few surviving examples of Epi-Olmec script.: See main article: Olmec mythology



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olmec
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Andrew Waters
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2007, 01:06:59 am »

 From the previous article below:
While the actual ethnicity of the Olmec remains unknown...

Well they sure don't look caucasian.

I wonder why no one else gets involved with this intriguing information.  My knowledge on this is lacking, but not lacking to the point that it shouldn't be addressed. It is here staring us in the face, pre-dating the darlings of Central America, the Aztecs and Maya, et al, by centuries.

Now if only we could get rid of those huge African statues and fly them back to a specific(?) geographical location in Sub-Saharan Africa (?) then there will be no need to get involved anymore because they will be ''in their place''  without need of further explanation. Wink
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Brooke
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2007, 10:39:34 pm »

Hi Andrew,

As odd as it may sound, mainstream science still doesn't buy the African connection for the Olmecs, even though evidence of it is staring them in the face!!

There was a tribe in western Africa they tried to link the Olmecs to, but genetically, there wasn't a match  I'll dig up more on it when I have time.

Brooke
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Andrew Waters
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« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2007, 01:13:12 am »



 Thanks Brooke. I do have a recent book on this culture but I can't seem to find the time to read it.
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« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2007, 11:14:13 pm »

Hi Andrew, well, better late than never!!

This isn't the one I was looking for, there was an article that had a ver specific link to a tribe in Africa but this one makes for a nice introduction.  Bear in mind, this is probably one case where traditional science is wrong and that shall be borne out later:

Olmec as Africans

Some writers claim that the Olmec were related to peoples of Africa based on interpretation of a wide range of skeletal, linguistic, epigraphic, religious and anthropological data. Some researchers specifically identify the Olmecs with the Mandé people of West Africa.
The idea that the Olmecs are related to Africans is an old one. José Melgar, who discovered the first colossal head at Hueyapan (now Tres Zapotes) in 1862, subsequently published two papers that attributed this head to a "Negro race".[1]
Osteological evidence
Some researchers have seen evidence for African skeletons at prehistoric sites in Mexico. Constance Irwin and Dr. Wiercinski (1972b) have both reported that skeletal remains of Africans have been found in Mexico. Constance Irwin, in Fair Gods and Stone Faces, says that there are "distinct signs of Negroid ancestry in many a New World skull.". Dr. Wiercinski (1972b) claims that some of the Olmecs were of African origin [2]. He supports this claim with skeletal evidence from two Mesoamerican sites: Tlatilco and Cerro de las Mesas.
•   Tlatilco is a site in the Valley of Mexico. Although outside the Olmec heartland, Olmec influences appear in the architectural record. The skeletons were from the Pre-Classic period, contemporary with the Olmec.
•   Cerro de las Mesa is within the Olmec heartland, although according to Wiercinski, "the series . . . is dated on the Classic period."[3] The Classic period is generally defined to start around 300 AD, or 700 years after the demise of the Olmec.

Site   Skeletons   Time Period
Tlatilco
100   Pre-classic
Cerro de las Mesas
25   Classic


Wiercinski claimed, based on his comparisons, that 13.5% of the skeletons from Tlatilco and 4.5% of the skeletons from Cerro de las Mesas were of West Africans.
To determine the racial heritage of the skeletons, Dr. Wiercinski (1972b) used classic diagnostic traits, determined by craniometric and cranioscopic methods, as well as the Polish Comparative-Morphological School skeletal reference collection (SRC). These measurements were then compared against three crania sets from Poland, Mongolia and Uganda to represent three racial categories. The only European type recorded in this table is the Alpine group which represents only 1.9 percent of the crania from Tlatilco. The other alleged "white" crania from Wiercinski's typology of Olmec crania, represent the Dongolan (19.2 percent), Armenoid (7.7 percent), Armenoid-Bushman (3.9 percent) and Anatolian (3.9 percent). The Dongolan, Anatolian and Armenoid terms are euphemisms for the so-called "Brown Race", "Dynastic Race", "Hamitic Race", etc., which some claimed were the founders of civilization in Africa. [4] Carlson and Gerven (1979),[5]and MacGaffey (1970) [6]have claimed that these people were Africans or Negroes with so-called 'caucasian features' resulting from genetic drift and microevolution [7]. If supported, this would imply that the racial composition of 26.9 percent of the crania found at Tlatilco and 9.1 percent of crania from Cerro de las Mesas were of African origin. The races recorded by Wiercinski are based on the Polish Comparative-Morphological School (PCMS). The PCMS terms are misleading. As mentioned earlier the Dongolan, Armenoid, and Equatorial groups refer to African people with varying facial features which are all Blacks.
Wiercinski (1972b) compared the physiognomy of the skeletons to corresponding examples of Olmec sculptures and bas-reliefs on the stelas[1]. For example, Wiercinski states that the colossal Olmec heads represent the "Dongolan" type.[8] The empirical frequencies of the Dongolan type at Tlatilco calculated by Wiercinski was 0.231, more than twice as high as Wiercinski's theoretical figure of 0.101, for the presence of Dongolans at Tlatilco. The other possible African type found at Tlatilco and Cerro were the Laponoid group. The Laponoid group represents the Austroloid-Melanesian type of (Negro) Pacific Islander, not the Mongolian type.
Many of the 125 skulls show cranial deformations according to Pailles, yet Wiercinski (1972b) was able to determine the ethnic origins of the skulls. Marquez (1956, 179-80) made it clear that a common trait of the African skulls found in Mexico include marked prognathousness; prominent cheek bones are also mentioned [9].
Wiercinski's research is not accepted by the vast majority of Mesoamerican scholars.
Genetic evidence
According to some researchers, contemporary Maya and other Amerind groups show African characteristics and DNA. Underhill, et al. found that the Mayan people have an African Y chromosome [10]. Some researchers claim that as many as seventy-five percent of the Mexicans have an African heritage,[11] although "this gene flow is largely (but not necessarily exclusively) due to the effects of the Atlantic slave trade".[12]
James l. Gutherie (2000) in a study of the HLAs in indigenous American populations, found that the Vantigen of the Rhesus system, considered to be an indication of African ancestry, among Indians in Belize and Mexico centers of Mayan civilization. Dr. Gutherie also noted that A*28 common among Africans has high frequencies among Eastern Maya. It is interesting to note that the Otomi, a Mexican group identified as being of African origin and six Mayan groups show the B Allele of the ABO system that is considered to be of African origin [13]
Lisker et al, noted that “The variation of Indian ancestry among the studied Indians shows in general a higher proportion in the more isolated groups, except for the Cora, who are as isolated as the Huichol and have not only a lower frequency but also a certain degree of black admixture. The black admixture is difficult to explain because the Cora reside in a mountainous region away from the west coast”. Green et al (2000) also found indigenous natives with African genes in North Central Mexico, including the L1 and L2 clusters. Green et al (2000) observed that the "discovery of a proportion of African haplotypes roughly equivalent to the proportion of European haplotypes [among North Central Mexican Indians] cannot be explained by recent admixture of African Americans for the United States. This is especially the case for the Ojinaga area, which presently is, and historically has been, largely isolated from U.S. African Americans. In the Ojinaga sample set, the frequency of African haplotypes was higher that that of European hyplotypes”. In a discussion of the Mexican and African admixture in Mexico Lisker et al (1996) noted that the East Coast of Mexico had extensive admixture. The following percentages of African ancestry were found among East coast populations: Paraiso - 21.7%; El Carmen - 28.4% ;Veracruz - 25.6%; Saladero - 30.2%; and Tamiahua - 40.5%. Among Indian groups, Lisker et al (1996) found among the Chontal have 5% and the Cora .8% African admixture[14].The Chontal speak a Mayan language. According to Crawford et al. (1974), the mestizo population of Saltillo has 15.8% African ancestry, while Tlaxcala has 8% and Cuanalan 18.1%.[15] In the Olmec heartland region of the current states of Veracruz and Tabasco, Lisker[16] finds these percentages of African ancestry: Paraiso - 21.7%  ; El Carmen - 28.4% ; Veracruz - 25.6% ; Saladero - 30.2% ; Tamiahua - 40.5%. Paraiso is in Tabasco and Veracruz is, of course, in the state of Veracruz. Tamiahua is in northern Veracruz. These areas were the first places in Mexico settled by the Olmecs. I'm not sure about Saladero and El Carmen. Given the frequency of African admixture with the Mexicans a comparison of Olmec mask, statuettes and other artifacts show many resemblances to contemporary Mexican groups. But a comparison of Olmec figures with ancient Mayan figures, made before the importation of hundreds of thousands of slaves to Mexico during the Atlantic Slave Trade show no resemblance at all to the Olmec figures. This does not mean that the Maya had no contact with the Africans. This would explain the "puffy" faces of contemporary Amerinds, which are incongruent with the Mayan type associated with classic Mayan sculptures and stelas.
There is little support for this work among mainstream Mesoamerican researchers.
Epigraphic evidence
Dr. Leo Wiener, in Africa and the Discovery of America, suggested that the Olmec probably used a Mandé writing system. Dr. Wiener concluded that glyphs on the Tuxtla Statuette were analogous to Manding writing engraved on rocks in Mandeland and identical to the Manding (Malinke-Bambara) writing used in Africa. [17]
Dr. Clyde Winters compared the symbols on the Tuxtla Statuette and the celts in Offering 4 at La Venta to each other and found the symbols similar to those of the Vai script.
There are many inscriptions written in this script spreading from the Fezzan to the ancient Mande cities of Tichitt.[18] Mauny and others have identified the North African petroglyphs as writing connected to Vai, an African language, which Delaffose has noted was created in ancient times according to Vai informants [19]. The writing found among the Vai and along the Chariots routes leading to Tichitt is related to the Libyco-Berber writing. Many of these inscriptions like the inscription at Oued Mertoutek date back to Olmec times. Using the Vai characters, Dr. Clyde Winters claimed to have deciphered the Olmec script in 1979, claimed that Olmec symbols are a script that encodes a Mande language. [20][21] Dr. Winters claims that as a result of his decipherment the Olmec called themselves 'Xi" or "Si".
For many reasons, these assertions have found little support among Mesoamerican researchers. While scholars have made significant progress translating the Maya script, researchers have yet to translate Olmec glyphs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olmec_alternative_origin_speculations#_note-1
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« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2007, 03:28:58 am »

If anyone is interested, there's a pretty good article in the current issue of Archaeology magazine about the ongoing debate over whether the Olmec were the first of the mesoamerican civilizations or if they were the among their contemporaries.

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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2007, 11:52:39 pm »

Thanks for the information, Zaphod, I am definitely interested and will try and check it out!
You don't know if it's online or not, do you?

Brooke
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« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2007, 04:54:23 am »

Hi Brooke,

I looked at the magazines web site, but couldn't find the article on line. You might have to get the issue (mar/apr).

The site addee is :

www.archaeology.org
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« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2007, 06:32:39 pm »


   I was going to pick up that issue of Archaeology when I was in the bookstore Thursday but after leafing through the ''new look'' Olmec article I decided to put it on hold for now. The reason being that I saw no information that would make me really pay close attention to what they were saying. That information from my perspective will be why are those huge stone statues sub-Saharan in appearance. Someone, from some culture, decided to make a special note on these guys and decided to represent them by taking some time to carve out a likeness of what they saw. That's what I thought I was going to read in that issue mentioned above. Instead, what I got was the old school in conflict with the new about were the Olmecs the first or simply contemporaries. There was far more pertinent information in Brooke's earlier article than the magazine.

Now I may be showing my ignorance but according to contemporary history black Africans didn't make their apearance in the western hemisphere until nearly 1500AD, more or less, as slaves. And to be sure I don't keep up with this sort of thing and maybe I should since I'm opening my mouth on it, but to me the question should be is why are they there to even raise a question. Of course the easy answer is nothing is as it seems; but the problem with that is these statues are mocking the Archaeology magazine people and they can't even see it...or maybe they do but that it isn't cool, yet, to talk about this in a scholarly manner, or at least on a sustained level. Wink

 I'm saying, if these statutes popped up in Germany or Denmark or Sweden, wouldn't the archaeological community be abuzz? Someone would have to say there is no evidence of sub-Saharan people in Europe regardless of the statues, wouldn't they? Has this information changed? Should I be looking at more archaeology magazines to bring myself up to speed.  Yet the stone statues  aren't in Europe—they are right here in our backyard so to speak and still nothing substantive that I can see. On the other hand, if this is ignored long enough then it can and will be said there is no serious research on this issue so further comments will be speculation... all the while ignoring there is some evidence to really get started on.

Whew, glad I'm not an archaeologist. Wink Sometimes things can be embarrassing.
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« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2007, 12:12:02 am »

Thanks for checking for me, Zaphod, I'll do some checking myself.  I sort of doubt that they will take anything but the traditional view, but I am interested in what they say!

Quote
Of course the easy answer is nothing is as it seems; but the problem with that is these statues are mocking the Archaeology magazine people and they can't even see it...or maybe they do but that it isn't cool, yet, to talk about this in a scholarly manner, or at least on a sustained level.


I whole-heartedly agree with that, Andrew, the statues are clearly African-American and here the archaologoical community is tripping over themselves trying to explain them away!

It might also interest you to know that most of the giant heads were moved from their original locations - the first rule of archaeology is to examine something in it's native soil, taking in the context and looking for other artifacts that might also belong to an ancient people.  The Olmecs have been treated as an afterthought almost since their discovery - some very sloppy acrchaeological work involved in all this!

Brooke
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« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2007, 12:20:41 am »

Well, at least the abstract of the article is online now, and here it is:



Beyond the Family Feud  Volume 60 Number 2, March/April 2007 
by Andrew Lawler 


After decades of debate, are younger scholars finally asking the right questions about the Olmec?


 


The lush, wet environment of the Laguna de los Cerros site, aerial view above left, typifies the Olmec heartland between the later Aztec (Tenochtitlán) and Maya (Palenque) regions. (Ken Garrett)


It's a drizzly autumn morning in the eastern Mexican city of Xalapa, near the heartland of what many scholars say was Mesoamerica's first civilization. At the city's elegant anthropology museum, amid one of the finest Olmec collections in the world, Yale archaeologist Michael Coe points at the giant squat stone head staring sullenly at us. "Look at this," he says enthusiastically. "When it was made, the Maya area didn't even have pottery, and the biggest sculpture from this time in Oaxaca"--an important valley to the west--"could fit in this guy's eye." The Olmec, Coe insists, "were the Sumerians of the New World."



More than 40 wooden busts were found buried at El Manatí, an early Olmec religious site. The faces vary and may represent individual people rather than deities. (Ken Garrett)
An energetic man even at 77, he is part of an older generation of scholars who have spent a good part of their professional lives arguing among themselves over whether the Olmec birthed the rudiments of Mesoamerican civilization, or whether they were one among many contemporary peoples who contributed art, technology, and religious beliefs to the Aztec, Maya, and other cultures that Cortes and the Spanish encountered 2,500 years later. But that lingering "mother-sister" debate--often vociferous, occasionally unseemly, and sometimes downright nasty--obscures a quiet revolution in research on early Mesoamerica. While the elders bicker, a younger batch of archaeologists is pursuing other questions, asking, for example, how the ordinary Olmec lived and worked, and what they ate.

Such fundamental matters until now were largely neglected amid the academic fracas, which has focused on monumental structures, evidence of kings, and the iconography of the elite. "Everyone is flying a flag from their own valley," sighs Mary Pye, a 40-something archaeologist in Mexico City who is also in Xalapa for a conference on the Olmec. "Forget mother-sister," she says. "It's more complicated." The more nuanced picture emerging of early Mesoamerica does not fit that of either warring camp. Those who back the Olmec as the first civilization traditionally point to the early adoption of maize, the growth of urban centers, and the export of finished goods such as pottery throughout Mesoamerica to clinch their argument. Opponents emphasize the complexity of other cultures in different areas, such as Oaxaca. But the new research shows that during the early critical phase of urbanization the Olmec may have shunned maize, lived mostly as fishermen, and sought luxury items from distant places, while simultaneously expanding their cultural influence throughout the region.

Andrew Lawler is a staff writer for Science and lives in rural Maine.


© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America
www.archaeology.org/0703/abstracts/olmec.html


http://www.archaeology.org/0703/abstracts/olmec.html
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"The most incomprehensible thing about our universe is that it can be comprehended." - Albert Einstein
Mark of Australia
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« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2007, 10:22:38 am »

Hi all

 hmmm  ,were the Olmecs the first ? well I recall that a few years ago a large ceremonial ball court was discovered in Mexico that dated to about 1500 BC . That threw a spanner in the works ,but I haven't heard anything about it since ..Has anyone here heard about it ??
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