Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Rise of Civilization in Mesoamerica

While the earliest inhabitants of Andean South America have been established, both in the north (Ecuador) and in the south (Chile), the same cannot be said for Mesoamerica (southern Mexico, Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize, and part of Honduras). This is because solid evidence of any culture does not begin before around 1500 B.C. with the people now known as Olmec, which some place no earlier in the land than 1300 B.C. 
The Olmec (“Rubber People”) are known to be the first people to have left signs of their culture for succeeding civilizations. However, while that would mean to most of us that they were the first to be in the land, to the archaeologist and anthropologist, it means before the Olmec were a people we simply do not have any record about--however, their approach is diffusion, recognizing someone had to have preceded the Olmec. To their way of thinking, “The earliest Mexicans might have been Stone Age hunter-gatherers from the north, descendants of a race that crossed the Bering Strait and reached North America around 12,000 B.C. Or, according to more recent theories, they might have been even earlier explorers from Asia.”
    The key wordage in that quote is the words “might have been.”
    To better understand this way of thinking, one has to recognize that through the principle of “diffusion,” science is obligated to form a people, even groups of people, that supposedly lived in an area prior to those that left a mark. After all, to the archaeologist, if they find evidence of a people living in Mesoamerica dating to the “Classic Period,” they then assume that there would have been an earlier people in the “Pre-Classic Period,” whether there is any evidence or not.
    While the Olmec are considered to be Mesoamerica’s “Mother Culture,” it has been “speculated” that they derive in part from neighboring Mokaya and/or Mixe-Zoque, who were part of pre-Olmec cultures, which are claimed to have flourished in the area since about 2500 B.C. The Mokaya (“Corn People”), are thought to have developed in the Soconusco region in Mexico and parts of the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Their dating at 1900 B.C. is derived from cacao from the upper Amazon and supposedly domesticated by the Mokaya; however, their dating is more accurately placed at 1550 to 1400 B.C., and seems to overlap the Olmec, though their pottery was different leading archaeologists to claim they were a different culture. On the other hand, the Mixe-Zoque is a language family and not a cuture, that was spoken around the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico (Mesoamericanists’ Narrow Neck of Land).
    What seems more likely, is that the “Early Olmec” who are not considered to have “emerged” until about 1600 to 1500 B.C. on the San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan site near the coast on southeast Veracruz, were likely one people (the Nephites who went north in Hagoth’s ships? [Alma 63:6]) that have been given different names. In any event, the Early Olmec, are credited as the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed.
The Olmec colossal heads are at least seventeen monumental stone representations of human heads sculpted from large basalt boulders, and date from at least before 900 BC and are a distinctive feature of the Olmec civilization
    The Olmec “colossal stone heads” each carved from basalt rock weighing as much as 30 tons procured from hundreds of miles away, are considered to be among ancient America’s most striking sculptures. The stone heads have been found at the three most significant Olmecs sites in Mexico (La Venta, San Lorenzo and Tres Zapotez). They were carved from huge basalt boulders, some quarried in the Tuxtlas Mountains; some from the basalt of Cerro Cintepec; others from basalt found on San Martin Volcano. All these heads range in height from five to eleven feet.
    The Olmec dominated Mesoamerica over a millennium before the Mayans (Guatemala and Yucatan) and over two millennium before the Aztecs (Mexico).
    One of the interesting things about the Olmec is that they were well-established tradesmen with a large network of established trade routes. However, around approximately 300 BC their civilization vanished, though Olmec influence as mentioned before can be found in vast amounts among Aztec and Mayan culture. Besides their seemingly mysterious disappearance some of the artifacts that they left behind are also the source of some lingering questions. As a fairly advanced culture they left behind thousands upon thousands of artifacts as well as large monuments including entire cities, which are still being explored.
In 1938, the American archaeologist Matthew Stirling was on an expedition in the jungles of Mexico. They had already  uncovered stone altars when they ran across a large piece of stone that proved to be a colossal head
    It wasn’t until ruins of an Olmec city were discovered that archaeologists began to put the pieces together. The ruins showed the Olmec were the first civilization to live in the area, the first to have an organized society, the first to create great works of art, and the first to build huge structures. Then, for some reason, about 2000 years ago, the Olmec abandoned their cities. They left behind their homes, their farms and their great works of art. No one knows why. The most likely reason is a drop in the food supply. Rather than starve, the people left. Of course, if that was what happened, we would find the Olmec existing somewhere else in Central America or North America around the time of Christ onward—which we do not.
Black arrows shows the Narrow Neck of Land (a vertical line between the arrows); Red Arrow: Vera Cruz state; Blue Arrow: Tabasco state; Green Arrow: Chiapas state in their Land Southward—all three states were the Olmec homeland—making it impossible for the Olmec to have been the Jaredites since the Jaredites did not settle in the Land Southward
    The problem with evaluating the Olmec lies in the Mesoamericanist theme that the Olmec were the Jaredites. However, as said earlier, these enigmatic people inhabited the tropical plains of today's Gulf Coast, including the states of Veracruz and Tabasco. However, it should be kept in mind that using the Mesoamericanists’ map of the Land of Promise overlaid onto Mesoamerica, while the state of Vera Cruz is in their Land Northward, the state of Tabasco is in their Land Southward, along with Chiapas—both claimed to be Olmec (Jaredite) homeland centers, which completely disagrees with the many statements in the scriptural record where it is said the Jaredites did not move into and settle in the Land Southward, but kept it as a preserve for hunting (Ether 10:21).
    Thus, according to the scriptural record, the Olmec were only in the Land Northward, and do not line up with the Mesoamericanists claim that the Olmec were the Jaredites. In fact, in the following map, it shows that the Olmec influence in settlement areas and cultures was fairly well distributed throughout what they claim is their Land Southward, a place the Olmec were never in, nor can it be suggested from the scriptural record that they had any influence over, or any interaction with, the Nephites or Lamanites, which controlled that Land Southward—at least five of the sites indicated (red arrow map below) were deep into Lamanite territory of the Land of Nephi.

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