Full Text

Olmec writing

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


Originally the name of a historical people, the Huixtotin Olmecs living in Caoutchouc at the Gulf of Mexico prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the term ‘Olmec’ has been used variously to refer both to the most ancient period of civilization in the New World which flourished in southern Mexico from the twelfth to the fifth centuries bce , and to the period immediately preceding the ‘golden age’ of Mesoamerican culture, i.e. from about 150 bce to 250 ce . The early Olmec culture had massive stone monuments and pyramids, and most scholars agree that the Maya calendar as well as Maya hieroglyphic writing have their origin in this period. The latter Olmec period is characterized by a distinctive literary tradition, called epi-Olmec because it seems to descend from that of the earlier Olmecs, although the scarcity of epigraphic material does not yet allow a reconstruction of the exact nature of the relationship between the two. A better understanding of epi-Olmec writing became possible through the discovery in 1986 of a stele with a long inscription at La Mojarra, Veracruz, Mexico ( Figure 4 ). The script was found to be closely related to Mayan hieroglyphic writing, as had been suspected for some time. It is basically syllabic with individual graphemes representing CV syllables, and in addition makes use of logograms. Grammatical endings are mostly spelled by syllabograms. The ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top