Subject:      Re: Olmec emergence (was: American map on Phoenician coins?
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/05/19
Message-ID:   <5lq1f8$hv4$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,sci.archaeology.mesoamerican wrote [in another thread]:

: >I would like you to comment on something coming from PREHISTORY OF THE
: >AMERICAS, by Stuart Fiedel, 1992. On p. 268 he says that the Olmec :
>civilization _did not_ develop _in situ_. Which one of you two is

: One thing that would help discussions would be for participants to try to
: refer to people who are experts on the field and who have actually done
: field research on the topic. I never have heard of Stuart Fiedel. What is
: his background and qualifications? What I have said before could be
: reconciled with Fiedel since the opinion of most Olmec specialists is
: that the characteristic traits associated with the Olmecs were widely
: diffused over Mesoamerica and not just located in the Gulf Area. Where
: previously the Gulf Olmec were called the mother culture most experts
: now think of the existence of Sister Cultures.


I really think you're dismissing Fiedel way too lightly. This is the
situation that exists. I'm not really knowledgeable about the Olmecs. I go
to the library and pick up a recent survey of American prehistory
published by Cambridge University Press. If I cannot trust this book --
who should I trust? This book tells me the Olmecs did not develop in situ.
So I assume this is so.

And now you're telling me this book is bunk written by a nobody -- I
should not trust it. Don't you see how confusing it can get? Now you're
telling me you will give me the "real story", and I should trust the
authorities you cite. I've been long enough in this game to know that for
any authority who says anything there're always some other authorities who
say something else...

I think at the very least you should acknowledge that the state of this
problem is not quite as clear-cut as you tended to present is so far...
Really, your asssurance may seem perhaps somewhat overdone...

I'm certainly aware of the fact that earlier cultural stratas exist in
some of the areas where Olmecs established themselves. But this, by
itself, is certainly not a compelling argument that would prove that the
Olmecs developed in situ. As it is, a typical hypothesis of those who
suggest that the Olmecs may have developed their astoundingly
sophisticated culture somewhere else before bringing it to the Gulf Coast
would have it that the Olmec arrivals came to a previosly existing culture
and _then_ forged some kind of a synthesis with it.

To say that just because a previous culture existed in this area this
means that the Olmecs _had_ to develop in this area is a bit of a

The authorities that you cited further in your post point out that
previous cultures existed in the area. But surely the big question is
_how much_ continuity exists between them and the "full-blown" Olmecs. I
think more doubt about this exists among the authorities in the field than
you indicated so far...

Yours truly,


Yuri Kuchinsky   | "Where there is the Tree of Knowledge, there
     -=-         | is always Paradise: so say the most ancient
 in Toronto      | and the most modern serpents."  F. Nietzsche
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