This article first appeared in ancient-code.com and is written by Ivan Petricevic
The Olmec civilization developed in the period of the Lower and Middle Preclassic, spanning from 1500 BC to 100 A.D. The name Olmec is translated to “people of the rubber country” and was awarded to them in 1929. It refers to the culture developed in southern Veracruz and northern Tabasco, in the territory of modern-day Mexico. Regrettably we do not know their actual name nor do we know what language they spoke since the written records left behind by this influential civilization has not been deciphered.
Even though the Olmec civilization is surrounded by numerous mysteries, researchers believe that all the classical cultures of Mesoamerica originated from this mysterious civilization.
The ancient Olmecs achieved an incredible degree of development, totally incomprehensible if we consider that we know nothing of their origin nor their roots. The Ancient Olmecs knew about animal domestication, beekeeping, and extracted a substance with hallucinogenic properties from a frog native to the gulf of Mexico. This practice was also shared by shamans in the Yucatán peninsula and islands in the Caribbean.
Their stonemason skills were something noteworthy, achieving incredible constructions and monuments, like the giant Olmec heads, before the Aztecs, Mayas and other civilizations of the Americas. The question that has baffled archaeologists and other researchers is how? From where did the ancient Olmecs obtain their knowledge and where do they come form?
Many researchers today have tried explaining the Olmec civilization and their advanced knowledge in many fields. The inability to answer almost anything about the Olmecs has led numerous researchers to suggest that these ancient people have a very mysterious origin, one that points to an otherworldly connection.
The only “reasonable” explanation that would lead to the understanding of such complex advancements in cultural and technological development is that these ancient people had contact with civilizations more advanced than we can ever imagine. The Olmec culture was inherited by other great Mesoamerican civilization such as the Maya and Aztec.
At the most important ancient Olmec sites such as La Venta, San Lorenzo, Laguna de los Cerros and Tres Zapotes, researchers have found the most important discoveries that could lead to the understanding of this ancient civilization. Olmec art has numerous forms, the most important archaeological findings are the giant heads, but there are also altars, thrones and stele that are believed to narrate important historical events of the ancient Olmecs. The ancient Olmec religion revolved around supernatural deities, they worshiped the jaguar-gods, crocodile and snake gods.
The giant Olmec heads are one of the most important symbols of this ancient civilization. They were able to transport rocks weighing over 20 tons which points to incredibly technology that would allow them to move these giant blocks of stone across rivers, jungles and mountains. No one has been able to logically explain how they managed it. Researchers believe that the ancient Olmecs had a very profound understanding in geology, which has allowed them to reuse materials for different purposes. It is believed that some of the Olmec heads were actually altars that were “reused” and redesigned.
Their knowledge in geology allowed this mysterious ancient civilization to literally “terraform” certain regions. The San Lorenzo plateau is one of those examples. It is considered one of the most important architectural projects in ancient times. The entire region was “modified” to the liking of the ancient Olmecs. This project involved the removal of tons of Earth and rock that allowed the construction of giant terraces, walls and monuments, literally transforming their surroundings into a sacred area for their inhabitants. The question that still remains is, how did ancient man achieve this… thousands of years ago?
The truth is that researchers have no idea of their origin or their language or their religion. As a cultural manifestation, the ancient Olmecs spread our from the Gulf where they expanded to all Mesoamerica, reaching the Maya in the South, the Totonac culture in the North and even the Nahua in central Mexico.
By Olmec influence, all other cultures developed in Mesoamerica, but the origin of the Olmec is still a mystery that researchers cannot seem to explain.
This ancient civilization is noted for their sculptures of giant heads, which have become one of the most profound mysteries for researchers. Today, researchers have not been able to decipher the way on how these giant heads were built, and possibly reused.
History tells us that the ancient Olmecs did not have knowledge of the wheel, but a finding by American archaeologist Matthew Stirling in the 40s tells an entirely different story. At the archeological site Tres Zapotes, Stirling unearthed numerous children toys, one of those consisted of a dog that had wheels on it. Does this point to the fact that the ancient Olmecs did in fact have knowledge of the wheel? It would be hard to believe that “the wheel” would have been only used for the amusement of children.
If the ancient Olmecs did possess the knowledge of the wheel, is it possible that they had other technologies that were ahead of their time? If so, did this “lost technology” allow them to achieve incredible feats that are causing confusion among archaeologists and researchers today?
Other important enigmas about the ancient Olmec civilization is their origin. The Negroid features on some Olmec sculptures has caused great confusion among researchers. The giant Olmec heads seem to depict people who are not native to the Americas, but Africa. Does this point to the fact that the Olmecs cam from a different continent? If so, how did they do this?
Among other representations of the ancient Olmecs we find other strange features such as bearded faces, aquiline noses and thin lips, which do not correspond with any Mesoamerican racial type, something that mysteriously, can be also found in other ancient sites in south America, like Puma Punku.
What does this tell us about history? Is it possible that, as many researchers suggest, history as we know it is completely wrong?
Ivan is a freelance writer, editor-in-chief of ancient-code.com, he also writes for EWAO, Share Knowledge, Svemir Online and Ancient Origins.