The First Americans: The Olmec

Lesson 1, Topic 1
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The First Americans: The Olmec

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Directions: Before you start, listen to part of a talk in a US history class.

*Vocabulary is sometimes provided in written form when it may be unfamiliar to the student but essential for understanding the lecture


The First Americans: The Olmec - Transcript

Mesoamerica is the geographic area stretching from north of Panama up to the desert of central Mexico. Although marked by great diversity, this region cradled a number of civilizations with similar characteristics. Mesoamericans were polytheistic, which means they worshiped several gods, and these gods possessed both male and female traits and demanded blood sacrifices of enemies taken in battle or ritual bloodletting. Corn, or maize, domesticated by 5000 BCE, formed the basis of their diet. They developed a mathematical system, built huge edifices, and devised a calendar that accurately predicted eclipses and solstices and that priest-astronomers used to direct the planting and harvesting of crops.

We are able to learn so much about these people because they created the only known written language in the Western Hemisphere; researchers have made much progress in interpreting the inscriptions on their temples and pyramids. Though the area had no overarching political structure, trade over long distances helped diffuse the culture.