Pre-Columbian Olmec people

Submitted by Jürgen Tenckhoff on Fri, 12/17/2021 - 19:43

If one thinks of the peoples in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, then it is often the Maya who impress with their monumental buildings, mathematical knowledge and their highly developed calendar. On a timeline, the beginning of the Mayan culture can be traced back to around 500 BC. BC, as the first traces of settlement in the area of ​​Tikal can be found here.

Less known is the prehistoric Mesoamerican La Venta culture of the Olmecs, which reached its peak as early as 1200 to around 400 BC. When their last major centers were destroyed. Little is known about the Olmec culture. Even the name, Olmecs, cannot be proven but can be found in sources of the Aztecs (14th to 16th century AD), who speak of a people of the Huixtotin-Olmecs, that in the places of the archaeological sites of the Olmecs should have lived - 2000 years before these sources.

The Olmec people were presumably eventually assimilated by the emerging Mayan culture. This also seems to be the basic idea of ​​the cinematic work Apocalypto with Mel Gibson, in which the story of the chief's son Pranke the Jaguar is told, who one day comes across the Mayan death squads with his peaceful village members ... Many artists have also suspected and partially Mysterious aspects of the culture of the Olmecs used as the basis of their works, because this high culture has not disappeared without a legacy, so they have left sculptures for posterity that are as impressive as they are unusual: among others, huge heads made of stone.

The most famous sites of these colossal heads are La Venta and San Andres on the southern Gulf coast of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz.

During our travel preparations, we had decided to get to know the culture of the Olmecs better and therefore drove to Villahermosa and Tuxla to get more information about this mysterious culture in the special museums there. In the Parque-Museo de La Venta (Villahermosa) there are many replicas of the colossal heads that are true to the original, while the museum in Tuxla also shows originals. Finally, on the shores of Lake Catemaco, we were able to see replicas of the colossal sculptures in appropriate surroundings and also found them at the equally mysterious Laguna Encantada, whose water level falls during heavy rains, while it rises in dry periods. Who is surprised that the Mexican wizards who are known for their miraculous healings can be found in this area?

Continent or ocean


Picture 1: Colossal heads of the Olmecs in the Parque-Museo de La Venta with archaeological finds of the Olmecs from La Venta


Photo 2: Colossal Olmec head at Lake Catemaco


Picture 3: Originals in the Museo Regional Tuxteco


Picture 4: Colossal Olmec heads at Laguna Encantada