Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, Volume 3 (1976).


Copyright 1976 by author(s).


The ceramic assemblage which characterizes the enigmatic Tlatilco burials is duplicated in the stratigraphy of the EI Terror Phase at Iglesia Vieja, Morelos, where two components have been isolated and defined, one of which is found to be regional, preeminent, and pre-Olmee, rather than Olmec inspired as previously thought. Radiocarbon dates from charcoal associated with Olmed figurines and vessels are as early as those from the Olmec heartland.

The participants of the Tuxtla Gutierrez Roundtable, sponsored by the Sociedad Mexicana de Antropoligia in 1942 and precipitated by a series of spectacular archaeological discoveries by Stirling (Stirling, 1938) at Tres Zapotes and La Venta in the Olmec heartland of southern Veracruz-Tabasco, Mexico, were implacably divided on two issues crucial to the interpretation of Mesoamerican archaeology; the relative place of Olmec in the Mesoamerican chronological sequence, and the extent of the generative role played by Olmec in the development of early high culture in Mesoamerica. The cleavage over these issues followed national lines, as most of the Mexican archaeologists in attendance, led by Caso and Covarrubias, vigorously proposed that Olmec antedated Maya and was in essence the "cultura madre", or progenitor of Mesoamerican civilization, while the non-Mexican contigent trenchently defended the view that Olmec and Classic Maya were temporally coequal and that Mayan civilization developed in isolation, essentially unaffected by extraneous forces.

The polemic over the temporal issue was definitively resolved by the 1955 University of California-National Geographic excavation of the site of La Venta, Tabasco (Drucker, et al, 1959), which on the basis of 9 radiocarbon dates, established the Olmec presence at La Venta by the beginning of the first millenium B.C. (Drucker, et al, 1957), or approximately a thousand years prior to the f1uorescence of the Classic Maya. The subsequent Yale University-National Science Foundation large scale, multiseason excavation of San Lorenzo, Veracruz, 1966-1968, corroborated the Preclasic assignment of Olmec, and resulted in the establishment of the San Lorenzo Phase, 1150-900 B.C. (Coe, et al, 1967), which presently circumscribes the earliest known Olmec period in the Gulf Coast heartland, and has become synonymous with the first perceptible emergence of civilization in Mesoamerica.