Archaeology: MYSTERY OF THE OLMEC

THE MAYA AND AZTECS BASED THEIR ART AND CULTURE ON THESE LITTLE-KNOWN PEOPLE; A NEW EXHIBITION SHOWS WHY

More than 1,500 years before the Maya flourished in Central America, 25 centuries before the Aztecs conquered large swaths of Mexico, the mysterious Olmec people were building the first great culture of Mesoamerica. Starting in 1200 B.C. in the steamy jungles of Mexico's southern Gulf Coast, the Olmec's influence spread as far as modern Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica and El Salvador. They built large settlements, established elaborate trade routes and developed religious iconography and rituals, including ceremonial ball games, blood-letting and human sacrifice, that were adapted by all the Mesoamerican civilizations to follow.

And then, about 300 B.C., their civilization...

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