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Seven very different films about the Olmec Civilization

Seven very different films about the Olmec Civilization


From its beginning in 2006,  the People of One Fire has encouraged Native Americans, especially those in school, to THINK and ANALYZE information presented to them by others about their heritage.   Below are three distinctly different perspectives on the Olmec Civilization.  None of the films are fully accurate, but vary considerably in their accuracy.  All seven place the cultural apex of this civilization way too early.  None tell you that the Olmecs had nothing to do with the “Olmec”  Civilization. The first film was produced by the University of California in 1963, mostly using film from National Geographic Society film, produced in 1943.  It was what my Pre-Columbian architecture professor used to tell us all there was to know about the Olmec Civilization.  The 1963 film makes makes viewers believe that archaeologists from the United States “discovered” the Olmec Civilization and have done most of the excavation work there.  The BBC program on the Olmecs, Kingdom of the Jaguar, is the newest film.

At the time I was a student in that class, I had never been west of Birmingham, Alabama and Mexico seemed as far away as China.  I didn’t dream in a million years that less than a year later, I would be standing in the midst of La Venta.   Well, that entire first summer in Mexico was surrealistic for me.  There are also aspects of these films that are indeed, surrealistic.  We will now let you, the readers discern what was factual and what is not in these seven films from different time periods.

This is one of the more unusual artifacts that I found in Mexico. Dr. Piña-Chan approved it for being included in the 100 kg of artifacts I was allowed to take back to Atlanta to use as educational aids.  It is a piece of a highly eroded, under-vitrified ceramic “something” that portrays a jaguar head with a human leg bone its mouth and human back bones in front.  Presumably there was once a human skull attached to the spine.   I found it in an abandoned, over-cultivated field on the edge of the Tuxtla Mountains.  Nearby is some of the earliest evidence of the embryonic “Olmec” civilization.  

Note that most of these films, irregardless of their age or intended propaganda message, proclaim the Olmecs to have started the first civilization in the Americas.  None of these films acknowledge much older (by 2000 years) cultures in Peru, Louisiana and Georgia . . . because such information would kinda mess up the propaganda message.  Several of these films state that this civilization existed at the same time that the Egyptian pyramids were being built.  That is just not true.  




Note:  None of the architecture depicted in this video below is from the Olmec Civilization.  Also, several of the photographs have been “doctored” . . . aka Photo-Shopped.  The first section of the film is taken from a TV documentary of the same name, produced by the National Geographic Society in the 1970s. 







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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Richard, I have read numerus ancient iron tools found in Ohio but no university will confirm the finds. The “Olmecs” didn’t have anything to do with that civilization, and very little digging has been completed of the main city built by a major iron deposits? Native peoples advanced in many ways thousands of years before the peoples on the other side of the Earth. When did some peoples here advance to the iron age? We just don’t know and we have not been told the truth about history of the Americas yet. Metals were used for some time by different Kingdoms in the Americas. Thanks for the articles.

    • Iron and bronze tools have been found in many Georgia mounds. The archaeologists dutifully noted their presence and didn’t discuss them any further.


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