Olmec Pottery Figure, possible ballplayer, wearing a loincloth. Mexico, ca. 1200 - 900 BCE. 5" x 2 1/2" x 1", on custom stand. Ex: The Lands Beyond, New York. Standing figure in meditative posture with arms held loosely at side. Well-rounded legs curving into slightly arched feet, head tilted downward, wearing loincloth, headband, hat, and earrings. Intact and in excellent condition. On custom stand. According to Aztec History, the ancient Olmec civilization is believed to have been centered around the southern Gulf Coast of Mexico area (today the states of Veracruz and Tabasco) - further south east than the heart of the Aztec empire. The Olmec culture developed in the centuries before 1200 BC (BCE), and declined around 400 BC. We know far less about the Olmec's than we do about, for example, the Aztecs and Mayans. There are very few written records to tell us about the culture. In fact, at first Olmec artifacts were thought to be Mayan, and the Mayans were thought to be the first great culture in the area. The generally accepted belief is that the culture arose from people in the area, although some have suggested that the Olmec's may have originally come from Africa. The major Olmec urban area in early times was San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, at the time the largest city in Mesoamerica. This was probably a ritual and political place, housing thousands and using an elaborate water and drainage system. The city and in fact the ancient Olmec civilization is often remembered because of the gigantic stone heads that have been found here. There are a couple of reasons why the Olmec's are so important. First, they used and perhaps developed many things culturally and religiously that were later used by the Mayans and Aztecs and many other cultures. Second, they had a wide influence in their day, which gives us reason to believe that they may be responsible for spreading some of these ideas. The Olmec's carved stone, jade, and the volcanic rock basalt (used for the great stone heads). The stone was quarried and imported. We can see similar types of sculpture as far away as central Mexico (the land of the Aztecs) and the states of Oaxaca, Morelos, Guerrero, perhaps even farther. In 2006, archaeologists unearthed a city that they believed was influenced by the Olmecs, only 40km / 25mi south of Mexico City. A new urban society related to the Olmecs suggests that their influence may have been stronger than we ever suspected.