The Olmecs

Topics: Olmec, Izapa, Africa Pages: 4 (1588 words) Published: February 3, 2014
Halle August
HIS 153-1
Mr. John Newport
September 6, 2013
An Analysis of Ivan Van Sertima’s African influence upon the Olmecs The Olmecs were considered to be the first pre-classic civilization in Mesoamerica that flourished in the year C. 1500 to 300 BCE who lived in the Tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico. The word Olmec comes from Aztec origin meaning “people of the rubber country”. The Olmecs were the first civilization to practice ritualistic bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, Pok-A-Tok. Ivan van Sertima was born January 26, 1935 was a linguist, literary critic, an anthropologist and an Associate professor of African studies at Rutgers University. In 1977, he published, through Random House publishing, the book They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, a detailed documentation of analogies between the Olmecs and the African culture before the time of Columbus. This topic has been much debated in the historical community, with some historians agreeing and disagreeing with his claim. The first piece of evidence that supports Van Sertima’s theory is the colossal stone heads that have facial features similar to that of African culture. The colossal stone heads are 14 large stone structures, with heights varying between 5 to 12 feet, weighing between 5 to 50 tons, and sculpted from basalt. The first stone structure was founded at Tres Zapotes in the nineteenth century and sparked an archeological investigation leaded by Matthew Sterling in 1938. All of the structures depict men with general facial features that were common during the time among the Olmecs. These heads were transported over long distances, requiring a great deal of human labor to transport them, although the method by which the Olmecs did so still remains a mystery. The explanation in which these stone heads have led some historians to believe that African culture influenced the Olmecs lie between the facial features of the stone head...


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