Knowledge Systems of the Olmec

  • Carolyn E. Tate
Reference work entry

People in Formative Period Mesoamerica (2000–250 BCE) developed an array of empirical knowledge and technological adaptations that became the foundation for the later great civilizations. These included domesticated plants, skilled ceramic production, lithic technologies, and long‐distance travel and trade.

This essay will focus on the little‐studied topic of Olmec knowledge of the human body. It uses as evidence the hundreds of Olmec three‐dimensional sculptures of the human figure in stone and clay (Fig. 1). Apparently the Olmec recorded their empirical observations about the process of human gestation and about the innate energies of the adult human body in many kinds of sculptures (Fig. 2). The practice of encoding knowledge and lore in sculpture characterizes all Mesoamerican cultures. It is documented for the sixteenth‐century Yucatec Maya, whose word “its” refers to art not as a category of objects made to be admired, but the related knowledges of science, art, philosophy, and...
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

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  • Carolyn E. Tate

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