Thursday, January 25, 2007

2,500-Year-Old Olmec City Uncovered in Mexico

Archaeologists have uncovered a 2,500-year-old Olmec city near Mexico City. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

MEXICO CITY - A 2,500-year-old city influenced by the Olmecs, often referred to as the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica, has been discovered hundreds of miles away from the Olmecs' Gulf coast territory, archaeologists said.

The remains of Zazacatla are providing insight into the early arrival of advanced civilizations in central Mexico, while also providing lessons about the risks to ruins posed by modern development that now cover much of the ancient city.

Archaeologist Giselle Canto said Wednesday that two statues and architectural details at the site, 25 miles south of Mexico City, indicate that the inhabitants of Zazacatla adopted Olmec styles when they changed from a simple, egalitarian society to a more complex, hierarchical one.

"When their society became stratified, the new rulers needed emblems ... to justify their rule over people who used to be their equals," Canto said of the inhabitants, who may not have been ethnically Olmec, but apparently revered the culture as the most prestigious.

Zazacatla covered less than one square mile between 800 B.C. and 500 B.C. But much of it has been covered by housing and commercial development extending from Cuernavaca, a city popular with tourists just seven miles north. "There are 10 housing developments, a gas station, a highway and a commercial building on the site now," Canto said.

Authorities hope to excavate and preserve other pre-Hispanic sites before they are forgotten or covered over. Since excavation of Zazacatla began last year, archaeologists have unearthed six buildings, and two sculptures of what appear to be Olmec-style priests. The sculptures appear to have headdresses portraying the jaguar, which the Olmecs revered, and other symbols of status and authority. The Olmecs dominated areas around the Gulf coast states of Veracruz and Tabasco from 1,200 B.C. to about 400 B.C.

This story clearly shows that ancient America had a hell of a lot of people in it. More, in fact, than we've been taught about over the years. Not only that, but they were quite sophisticated--unlike the traditional portrayals of bloodthirsty savages we've been led to believe.

This particular story speaks to the influence of the Olmecs on the non-Olmec inhabitants of the land in those times, and can be construed as being analagous to any of the European empires with regard to the way the Greeks and Romans influenced the peoples they encountered far from their home bases.

Let's hope that these researchers can uncover more evidence like this before modern development wipes it all out.

Full Story

No comments: