What makes a civilization

1. Means of subsistence (like agriculture)
2. Types of livelihood
3. Settlement patterns
4. Forms of Government
5. Social Stratification
6. Economic Systems
7. Literacy
8. Cultural Traits

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Olmec cites were primarily secular large hubs “that bound together.” These cities were equipped with specialized buildings such as platforms,palaces, and plazas with massive stone monuments. Throughout the life span of the Olmec civilization three main centers arose (one after another- not existing at the same time) “it appears that each center developed independently to exploit and exchange specialized products” while also creating a center for religious and governing purposes.The Olmec people honored their rulers by creating giant heads that looked like them.(See below for a picture)The king and elite rulers used religion to help govern the Olmec people.
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During this time trade really started to become an aspect of life. Some areas did not have what other areas had so trading with different cities became important. Also trading within a city became an aspect of everyday life. For example, people would trade ceramic bowls or crops for other goods.

Although the Olmecs did not go out and conquer many lands, they influenced other socieScreen shot 2012-09-14 at 12.38.09 PM.pngties. This influence even lasted long after the Olmec Empire had demolished.

Created a massive labor source- able to farm, be productive, and create hierarchies.
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Humans with Environment
There were many different areas to the Olmec Empire, which lead to different land types and different ability of natural resources. In general Olmecs domesticated animals, used agriculture to gain crops to trade. They also used the stone to create monuments, and used jade and other jewels to create jewelry and religious objects.Created produce centers from all the natural resources and crops that they were able to grow in the area.
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Polytheistic society

Religion was a dominant aspect to Olmec life, and many of the rulers during that time were considered god like/ godly.

Shamans were individuals who stated that they had the ability to contact supernatural powers. They organized religious life, and were attached to elite members of society. Shamans were also important due to the fact that they were believed to be able to predict the rainfall, which gave them even more power due to how much society depended on crops.

During the Olmec and Chavin reign the Jaguar was used as a symbol of religious authority and power.

Full-time priest also had an immense amount of power and influence on the Olmec people.

The Olmecs also believed that humans had the ability to transform themselves into powerful animals.

Throughout the year Olmecs would have huge religious ceremonies that attracted people from all around to come and watch, some of these ceremonies included human sacrifice.

On the right is a [[#|map]] of Olmec land.
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“ The priestly elite controlled the exchange of sacred objects”

The secular elite (including chieftains) supervised agrarian craftwork and transactions

Ruler--> priest/shaman--> elite--> everyone else (commoners)

The Olmecs also developed a tradition of sports. They built large athletic fields and baseball player’s received trophies or rewards. The Olmecs associated baseball playing with the worship of the powerful rain god.

Urban centers were filled with platforms and mounds of packed earth where elite residences would build their houses. Skilled artisans decorated the elites buildings with specialized drawing and markings. Commoners lived in structures built of stick and mud. While the ruler and elite lived in the center of the civilization, commoners lived on the outskirts of cities to take care of the farms.

Commoners built the houses the elites houses and religious temples.

The rulers and elite wore elaborate clothing and loved to buy specialized jewels and religious objects from local artisans.

The Olmecs also created their own art sytle- example the jaguar to the left and the giant heads of their rulers.

Some historians say that Olmecs used a type of hieroglyphist to write, while others are still working on what exactly the Olmec writing was... if there was any.

Why are the Olmecs a civilization: (compared to chart at top)
- have cities as administrative centers
- trade
- many people engaged in specialized, non-food producing activities
- status distinctions based largely on accumulation of substantial wealth by some groups
- monumental architecture
- major advances in the arts

http://videos.howstuffworks.com/geography/olmec-videos-playlist.htm#video-28709 This video briefly describes the Olmecs and why they are rightfully considred a civilization.


900-250 BCE

The Chavin people lived in the Andes. Many of them lived on the coastal plain or foothills near the coast.
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Had “political structures capable of organizing the production and disruption of maritime and agricultural products over a broad area.”

Class distinction increased in the Chavin era verses the Olmec era.

Local chiefs and more powerful chief/king dominated politics.

A military was also developed during this time. And conquering other lands and becoming more powerful were also aspects of this society...."chavins imposed some force.... chavins influence depended more on the develpement of religious belief systems and related rituals."

Coastal poopulation traded fish, decorative shells for corn, shellfish, and other foods

The Chavin and the Olmec people exchanged aesthetic ideas, religious motifs, and ceremonial practices

With the development of trade “ led to reciprocal labor obligatons that permitted the construction of roads, bridges, temples, palaces, and large irrigaitona and drainage projects as well as textile production.”

Llamas “provided wool and decreased the labor need to transport goods.” They promoted specializing of production and increased trade by moving goods from zone to another.

Chavins trading was much more extensive and elaborate than Olmec trading.

Developed extensive irrigation.

Chavin capital was located at the intersection of trade routes. And had traveled from the coast inland and across mountains in order to create a stronger economy.

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Chavins used their surrounding environment to their advantage. They used the ocean for fishing and collecting shells. They domesticated animals in order to help with farming, trading, and just getting around. Used resources such as jade, silver, and gold to gain wealth and create things like religious objects or crowns.

Like the Olmecs, Chavins associated the jaguar with power and religion.

Built many temples in pyramids in order to honor and worship gods and rulers. ( see right for a modern day picture of what is left of an old temple)

Had many of the same religious beliefs as the Olmecs.

Class of priests existed and directed religious life.

Obtaining products such as gold crowns, quality textiles, breastplates, and jewelry all contributed to social status.

Metallurgy became a popular thing to do. Silver, gold, and gold alloy ornaments developed- shows a clear advance over early technologies.

Improvement in manufacture and decorative textiles also developed.

“Specialized products contributed to the reputation and prestige of the culture.”

Like the Olmecs writing during this time is unknown.
Why are the Chavins a civilization( compared to the chart at the top):
-long distance trade
-major advances on science
- major advances in the arts
- Cities as administrative centers
- a political system based on control of a defined territory rather than a kinship connection
- many people engaged in specialized, non-food producing activities
- status distinctions based largely on accumulation of substantial wealth by some groups
- monumental architecture



Bulliet, Richard, et al. Earth and Its People, AP Edition, (Boston: Wadsworth, 2011) p. 5, 50

Tignor. "Worlds Turned Inside Out, 1000–350 BCE." Worlds Together, Worlds Apart. W.W Norton & Company, Dec. 2010. Web. 13 Sept. 2012. <Worlds Turned Inside Out, 1000–350 BCE>. <

Thorn, David L. "Mesoamerican Olmec Civilization." Mesoamerican Olmec Civilization. N.p., Mar.-Apr. 2008. Web. 15 Sept. 2012. <http://www.littlewolf.us/Olmecmesoamerica.html>.