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Sunday, January 15, 2017

How did Olmec ideas spread to other peoples?

The "Mother Civilization"
In many parts of Mexico and Central America, far from Olmec centers, traces of Olmec civilization have been found.

In southwestern Mexico, cave paintings show scenes of Olmec gods. In El Salvador, 500 miles (about 800 km) southeast of Olmec lands, a boulder is carved in the Olmec style.

Since the first discovery of the remains of Olmec civilization, archaeologists have tried to figure out how Olmec ideas spread throughout Mesoamerica. Most experts believe that Olmec ideas spread through Mesoamerica by cultural diffusion. You have already learned that cultural diffusion is the spreading of new ideas to other places.

No evidence has been found that suggests that the Olmecs conquered a large area and forced other peoples to follow their ways. Instead, Olmec ideas probably spread as different cultures came in contact with the Olmecs through trade. Other peoples may have adopted many Olmec ways because they admired Olmec innovations.

Some of the Olmec innovations included the use of hieroglyphic writing and a number system. The Olmecs were also among the first Mesoamerican peoples to use a calendar. Other Olmec innovations helped make everyday life easier. For example, the Olmecs made mirrors by polishing iron ore.

Some Olmec innovations are still used in modern Mexico. The early people of Mesoamerica did not use animals or wheeled carts to carry loads. Instead, workers or slaves used tumplines to carry trade goods and workloads. A tumpline (TUHM»plyn) is a kind of sling that makes it easier to carry heavy loads. A strap placed over the forehead helps support the load carried in the sling on the person's back.

A number of customs shared by later Mesoamerican peoples began with the Olmecs. These include their art and architecture, their religion, and their ball game. In fact, Olmec culture is in many ways the base of other Mesoamerican cultures. Richard E. W. Adams, who studies and writes about ancient Mesoamerica, notes, "Olmec culture did not die out but was absorbed and passed on in [different ways]." The way in which Olmec culture was passed on to other cultures has caused many scholars to call it the "Mother Civilization" of Mesoamerica.

How did Olmec ideas spread to other peoples?


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