An African civilization in the Americas

Brittney M. Walker | 10/27/2010, 5 p.m.

Black history does not start with slavery, but it begins with the conception of mankind and transcends all of the world's history. Although popular teachings reject the great accomplishments of African and African American people, researchers and historians have confirmed Black people are the foundation of civilizations throughout the world, including the Americas.

The Olmecs, an ancient civilization, known for its colossal African featured, head monuments, established dwellings in Mesoamerica, specifically Mexico centuries before White settlers knew the world was round. Carbon dating places the African explorers in the area from around 1400 B.C. to 200 B.C.. The Olmecs are one of the first societies in the region and is claimed to have influenced the Aztecs and other American civilizations.

Their exact origins are unknown, but according to their artwork, they resembled people of African descent. Some theories say they came from Carthage off the coast of Africa.

Ivan Van Sertima, author of "They Came Before Columbus" writes that these gigantic monuments look like ancient African warriors. He also writes that without a doubt, these people were of African descent, but also possessed the characteristics of other populations.

"The Olmecs were a people of three faces, that is, a people formed from three main sources or influences. One of these faces was Mongoloid. Elements of this Mongoloid strain may have come into America from Asia even after the famous glacial migrations across the Bering Straits, but they would have blended indistinguishably with the Ice Age Americans. The second face or influence was Negroid. The third suggests a trace of Mediterranean Caucasoids - some with Semitic noses (probably Phoenician) - but this will be shown to be related historically to the second. These faces became one face, to which the broad name 'Olmec' was given."

The Olmecs are known to have dwelled between the Gulf of Mexico (north) to the slopes of the mountains (south), the Papaloapan River (west) and the basin of the Blasillo-Tonalá (east).

According to Ignacio Bernal, author of "The Olmec World," the Olmec zone covered about 7,000 square miles.

Matthew Stirling Ph.D., an archaeologist, led an expedition from the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society 1939 in the jungles of Vera Curz to uncover the first Olmec head.

Originally encouraged to visit the site by reports of buried "helmeted domes," Stirling raised money to dig up these mysterious objects. When he and his team uncovered the first Olmec head made of basalt, weighing over ten tons and standing about six feet high, they also discovered that it was propped up on slabs of stone. The digger described the discovery:
"Cleared of the surrounding earth, it presented an awe-inspiring spectacle. Despite its great size the workmanship is delicate and sure, and proportions perfect. Unique in character among aboriginal American sculptures, it is remarkable for its realistic treatment. The features are bold and amazingly Negroid in character."

Further digging unveiled another slab of stone with dots and crosses, telling a specific date - Nov. 4 291 B.C.

Often called the mother of Mesoamerica, the Olmecs influenced the art, mathematics, domestication of plants and animals, and several other customs within the Central American societies. The civilization was a sophisticated establishment, and created a calendar and writing system. Their precise dates have aided archaeologists in their studies.