Friday, January 13, 2017

The Olmecs and Early Olmec Farmers

The Olmecs
Olmec civilization began along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in what are now the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. This civilization is remembered for its many ideas and inventions. Its innovations were used and added to by later civilizations in Mesoamerica, or Middle America, a region that includes central and southern Mexico and Central America. For this reason, the Olmec civilization is called the "mother civilization" of the Americas.

Early Olmec Farmers
The Olmec civilization began in the coastal lowlands of what is today eastern Mexico. By the early 1500s B.C. the Olmecs had begun planting maize, beans, squash, and other crops in the rich soil along the banks of the area's rivers. Olmec farmers planted their maize, beans, and squash together. The bean vines grew around the stalk, or stiff stem, of the maize. The squash vines spread out on the ground between the stalks. The bean plants gave the soil nitrogen, an important nutrient that the maize and squash needed. By intercropping, or planting different crops together, Olmec farmers made the best possible use of the small amount of fertile soil they had.

Crops grew quickly in the area's warm climate, and large amounts of rainfall kept the ground moist year-round. Two or more harvests were possible each year, giving the Olmecs a surplus of food.

Like other ancient civilizations, the Olmecs depended on the resources around them. They fished in the rivers and hunted animals such as deer, wild pigs, and jaguars in the rain forests. They built their homes of reeds from the rivers and grasses from the savannas. They made pots and bowls from clay they found near the rivers.

The Olmecs did not use only the resources available in their own coastal region. When they traveled inland to trade, they exchanged resources from their region for resources from the mountains, such as obsidian, a volcanic glass they used for cutting.

One of the resources the Olmecs traded was rubber, which they gathered from trees in the rain forest. In fact, it was rubber that gave them the name Olmec, which means "People from the Land of Rubber." m'iuvi What advantages did the coastal lowlands offer early Olmec farmers?

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