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Corporate Strategy as an Art (XV). When the bronze was booming in the Old World, the new world was still in the paleolithic era. (The Americas Part A).

Good afternoon to all. We have jumped the Ocean from the Old World to the New World. Let´s recapitulate. We have been busy writing about the ancient empires or civilizations during the bronze age. We identified the Egyptian Empire, The Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties of China,  the Sumerian, Akkadians and Babylonian Civilizations of Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley Civilization and the dissension participants of the Land of Canaan. Today is the turn of the Americas.

Let´s not lose sight. Artistic vestiges from the Bronze age (3,000-1,000 BCE) are providing inputs about, an important period of our human development, the Bronze Age, which links the Stone Age with the Iron Age. “The Bronze Age was characterized by the production of the metal bronze (an alloy of copper and tin), the development of a wide range of functional and precious metalwork, and an increase in economic productivity and the consequent emergence of skilled and specialized workers, many of whom were involved in artistic activity (including architecture and engineering), albeit of a semi-functional nature”. The Bronze Age collapsed by 1,000 B.C.E. in the Old World.

As you may intuit, the New World was also developing their cultures and villages identities in parallel to the Old World. Meanwhile, the bronze was booming in the Old World, the new world was still in the paleolithic era. We can´t find sophisticated bronze, or copper tools or extensive metal remains manufactured by the American Tribes during this period (3,000 BCE to 1,000 BCE). Of course, our American ancestors were living the paleolithic-neolithic era at that time. A tip for you: It is not bad to be way behind of other civilizations. History has shown us that our new continent (America as a whole) has been behind many times in comparison to Asia-Europe-Middle East.missisipian culture

We will divide America´s  New World into three regions: NorthAmerica´s cultures, Mesoamerican´s cultures, and South America´s cultures. Take in mind, that we will revisit America´s metalwork later during the A.D. or Christian Era development time period.

1. North America:


Copper knife, spearpoints, awls, and spud, from the Late Archaic period, Wisconsin, 3000-1000 BC

I will utilize one of the most common sources of reference that our Generation X used when we were educated in primary and secondary levels. The Encyclopedia Britannica. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “in much of Northern America, the transition from the hunting, gathering, and incipient plant use of the Archaic eventually developed into a fully agricultural way of life”. As usual, all the ancient tribes decided to settle near a source of water. Particularly, there is archaeological evidence of living “in the lush valleys east of the Mississippi River”. The Eastern Woodlands cultures inhabited the regions of North America east of the Mississippi River since at least 2500 BCE. These societies “grew increasingly dependent upon plants such as amaranth, sump-weed, sunflower, and squash. Many of these plants were eventually domesticated approximately at that time”.

map-of-us-ohio-river-valley-mississippi-branchesAgriculture became the economic foundation upon which cultures as the Adena and later Hopewell of the Illinois and Ohio river valleys were developed. These village-based communities created fine sculptures, pottery, basketry, and copperwork; the surplus food they produced also supported a privileged elite and elaborate burial rituals. Archaeologists have also found evidence of mining and tempering of the abundant native copper in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the United States dating back to 5,000 BCE. The Clovis Culture also arose as a society during this time period of development.

Great Plains Native Americans are most well known for their bead-work, which dates back to 8800 BCE and was used to decorate chokers, breastplates, clothing, jewelry and ceremonial headdresses worn by women and men.


Bannerstone 2000 B.C.E. United States, Ohio or Illinois- Culture: Archaic. Source: the MET Museum

Now let´s go to the corporate strategy analysis. By reading about the ancient North American societies between the 3,000 to 1,000 BCE, I have found limited sources of archaeological vestiges. Nothing from written language tablets or documents.  All the vestiges we can find from this timeline period are related to spear-thrower weights from the Illinois and Ohio Valleys, gardening small tools from the Midwest America region, large earthworks such as burial mounds, fortifications, and ridges at Poverty Point, Louisiana, and pottery remains from several parts of the USA territory.  It might be that the North-American tribes were lag behind in comparison to the rest of civilizations in the world. Or it might be that there is a lot of work that needs to be done by archaeologists in what is now the USA and Canada. The outcome: my corporate strategy analysis of this region will stay on hold for a few years. I also believe that North American ancestors probably emigrated down to the Mesoamerican kingdoms looking for better conditions of sun and water-irrigation. The majority of US and Canada territories have cruel winter conditions. How did climate push the North American tribes to settle in the frontier with México and around a river or lake valleys (Mississippi, Louisiana, Michigan Lakes, Ohio)? Given the archaic development of their tools and the remains from this period of time, I do prefer to wait for some new discoveries and input from Archaeologists.

Chronology of events in North America (this has to be reviewed by archaeologists since I utilized a wiki source reference) :
  • 3000 BCE: Cultivation of the sunflower and marsh elder begins in the American South; northeastern natives cultivate amaranth and marsh elder. After harvesting these plants, the people grind their seeds into flour.
  • 3000 BCE: The Cochise tradition of the American Southwest begin cultivating a primitive form of maize imported from Mesoamerica; common beans and squash follow later.
  • 3000 BCE: Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest begin to exploit shellfish resources.
  • 3000 BC: Fishing in the Northwestern Plateau increases.
  • 3000 BCE: Natives speaking the Algonquian languages arrive in eastern Canada from the south. Shell ornaments and copper items at Indian Knoll, Kentucky evidence an extensive trade system over several millennia.
  • 2888 BCE: People of the Stallings culture on the Savannah River begin making pottery.
  • 2500–800 BCE: The Arctic Small Tool tradition develops on the Alaska Peninsula, near Bristol Bay, and on the eastern shores of the Bering Strait in Alaska.
  • 2500–1800 BCE: Aleutian tradition emerges in Alaska.
  • 2500 BCE: The Cochise tradition become skilled farmers of the American Southwest.
  • 2100 BCE: Maize cultivation begins 
  • 2000-1000 BCE: Poverty Point culture in northeastern Louisiana features stonework, flintknapping, earthenware, and effigy, conical, and platform mounds, as well as planned settlements on concentric earthen ridges
  • 1500 BCE: Salishan speakers arrive in Northwestern Plateau region.
  • 1500 BCE–1000 AD: Intermediate Horizon emerged among Indigenous peoples of California
  • Shell ornaments and copper items at Indian Knoll, Kentucky evidence an extensive trade system over several millennia.
  • 1000 BCE: Athapaskan-speaking natives arrive in Alaska and western Canada, possibly from Siberia.
  • 1000 BCE: Pottery making widespread in the Eastern woodlands.

2. Mesoamerica:

Mesoamerican olmec-mapThe Mesoamerican region encompasses where actually México and Central America is located. According to the Met Museum “The hunter-gatherer lifestyle gives way almost completely to sedentary agriculture. Villages around the Basin of Mexico and the Soconusco region of coastal Guatemala establish trade routes, and social organization becomes increasingly complex. A rapid development of the Olmec site of San Lorenzo, Veracruz, after 1200 B.C., includes massive basalt sculptures. An iconographic system with its roots in the Gulf Coast spreads across Mesoamerica, as evidenced in the ceramics of central Mexico and in monumental sculpture and carvings as far south as Honduras and El Salvador”. The Olmec is the “parent” culture of all of those which came later in Mesoamerica, including the Maya and Aztecs. Please, before proceeding further, read all the articles about the Olmecs by clicking the next link from website.

Meanwhile, the Middle-East, India, and Asia Civilizations were using the Bronze or other metals for their economic and artistic life circumstances, the Mesoamerican region was also flourishing at the level of the Paleolithic and/or archaic development. The Paleo-Indians from Mesoamerica were in transition from hunting nomadic strategies to villages.  They successfully domesticated squash (c. 8,000–7,000 BCE), corn (c. 5,000–4,000 BCE), cassava (manioc; c. 5,000–4,000 BCE), and cotton (c. 2600 BCE). They were producing drinks made from cacao by about 1,000 BCE. olmec-head-unearthed.jpg

The archaeologists have named the new world development differently. These villages are known to archaeologists as Formative or Pre-Classic people. On average, these groups established agricultural villages by 1,800 BCE throughout all the Mesoamerican Region. From this point until the beginning of the Christ or Common Era, the most relevant of the Mesoamerican Cultures is the Olmec, which built large towns and developed increasingly complex architecture, art, and religion vestiges.

The most relevant remains of artistic vestiges with data of origin between 3,000 and 1,000 BCE come from the Olmecs. And I have chosen them to provide a brief corporate strategic analysis today.

Olmec Head Source James GaitherWho were the Olmecs? The Olmecs were a group of inhabitants which settled in the humid lowlands of southern Veracruz and Tabasco, in Mexico. The name “Olmec” means “rubber people” in Nahuatl.  These tell us that Olmecs might have extracted latex from Castilla elastica, a type of rubber tree in the area. The juice of a local vine, Ipomoea alba, was then mixed with this latex to create rubber as early as 1600 BCE.

According to Christine Niederberger and Caterina Magni, the Olmec culture was a multi-ethnic unit and pluri-linguistic culture covering a vast part of the Mesoamerica, in the period from 1,200 BCE to about 500 BC. Its presence is attested on old levels of occupation on the Coast of the Gulf, in the Valley of Mexico and along the Pacific coast in the States of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. Beyond the Mexican borders, Olmec artifacts are found south to Costa Rica. Some major centers being San Lorenzo (Veracruz), La Venta (Tabasco), Chalcatzingo (Morelos), Teopantecuanitlán (Guerrero) and Abaj Takalik (or Takalik Abaj) in Guatemala.

What made the Olmecs a remarkable settlement?

A society is known for its quality of artistic expressions, architecture design, and engineering works. According to archaeologists, the Olmecs were the greatest sculptors of ancient Mesoamerica: Sculpting from tiny jade figure to gigantic basalt monuments.

Olmec map civilization

A map showing the principal settlements of the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica (modern-day Mexico) which flourished from c. 1200-300 BCE. Original Source: Madman2001.

Where were the Olmecs main development centers?

  • San Lorenzo is the oldest known Olmec Center.
  • Laguna de Los Cerros, just south of the Cerro Cintepec in Veracruz, appears to have been a large Olmec site with outstanding sculptures.
  • La Venta, just east of the Tabasco border, was another contemporary site, but it reached its height after San Lorenzo had gone into decline.
  • Calcatzingo (Morelos)
  • Teopantecuanitlan (Guerrero) and
  • Abaj Takalik in Guatemala.

What were the economic activities of the Olmecs?

  • Agriculture was the center of their economy. The Olmecs had all year long abundant rainfall and the rich alluvial soil deposited along the broad, natural levees that flank the waterways of the southern Gulf coast. Thus, the ecological potential for corn farmers was exceptionally high.
  • Trading was somehow an important activity for the Olmecs. Exchange of exotic raw materials brought into the Olmec centers such as San Lorenzo from distant regions suggests that the early Olmec controlled a large trading network over much of Mesoamerica. Obsidian, used for blades, flakes, and dart points, were imported from highland Mexico and Guatemala. Most items were obviously for the luxury trade, such as iron ore for mirrors and various fine stones such as serpentine employed in the lapidary industry. One material that is conspicuously absent, however, is Jade, which does not appear in Olmec sites until after 900 BCE.
  • Engineering and Sculpture: “The Olmecs were perhaps the greatest pioneer sculptors of ancient Mesoamerica. Whether carving tiny jade figures or gigantic basalt monuments, they worked with great artistry”. San Lorenzo ruins provide information about a ceremonial center and extraordinary stone monuments of more than 40 tons. As it happened with their old world civilizations, the amount of labor involved to transport the basalt and the social organization required to complete them is still one of the most admirable testimonies of their corporate strategy. The colossal heads with helmets of 2.5 meters height were visages, with thickened lips and staring eyes.

What was the role of religion in the Olmecs culture?

The interpretation of the archaeologists in relation to religion is that there were at least 10 distinct gods represented in Olmec art. The Olmecs´ Pantheon shows them in terms of the degree of importance such as the fire god, rain god, corn/maize god, and the Feathered Serpent.

Olmec religious activities were performed by a combination of rulers, full-time priests, and shamans. The rulers seem to have been the most important religious figures, with their links to the Olmec deities or supernaturals providing legitimacy for their rule”. There is also considerable evidence for shamans in the Olmec archaeological record, particularly in the so-called “transformation figures”. The Olmec interpretation of their own culture is still a work in progress because up to this day, archaeologists have not found written documents comparable to the latter civilizations as the Popul Vuh-Maya Civilization. Nevertheless, a piece of art was found, the Cascajal Block, which features 62 symbols arranged in linear patterns on one side of the serpentine slab. The written side is clearly indented, for which researchers are still debating trying to understand them.

What was the central theme of Olmec Art? The Olmecs had left remains of several sculptures about a specific figure, a hybrid between a jaguar and human infant, often crying or snarling with open mouth. This “were-jaguar” is the hallmark of Olmec art. Researchers believe were-jaguar forms in Olmec art, ranging from the almost purely feline to the human in which only a trace of Jaguar can be seen. These “were-jaguar” Olmec monuments were generally carved in the round with great technical prowess, even though the only methods available were pounding and pecking with stone tools, and the same figure is repeated in the pottery figurines of San Lorenzo, which depict nude and sexless individuals with were-jaguar traits.

What was the role of transportation arrangement routes for the Olmecs? There is evidence that the Olmec sent groups from their Gulf coast “heartland” into the Mesoamerican highlands in all likelihood to guarantee that goods bound for San Lorenzo would reach other settlements. San Lorenzo-type Olmec ceramics and figurines have been found in burials at several sites in the Valley of Mexico, such as Tlapacoya, and in the state of Morelos. The Olmec involvement with the rest of Mesoamerica continued into the Middle Formative and probably reached its peak at that time.

Why are the Olmecs important to us nowadays? The Olmec is the “parent” culture of all of those which came later in Mesoamerica, including the Maya and Aztecs. According to an article written by Christopher Minster, Ph.D., and professor at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador: “Any insight gained from the earliest major city is of inestimable cultural and historical value. It is unfortunate that the city has been raided by looters and many priceless artifacts have been lost – or rendered valueless by being removed from their place of origin”. By learning about the Olmecs I am sure there are clues of information that we will understand from the Aztecs and Mayans.

In addition, the Olmecs faded glory is another example of how emerging Mesoamerican civilizations declined. Reasons may vary and we can only guess if the written or artistic traces have not been discovered or are non-existent. Anyway, there are always clues which bring us to the rationale of why human civilizations disappear:

  1. Conflicts-Wars: perhaps rival cities or tribes came to control the land which was extensively dedicated to agriculture, killing the whole population.
  2. Diseases-Famine: A population can decline because of health plagues or lack of basic sustainability related to food security (water, food).
  3. Climate Change: Minster has written: “The era around 900 B.C. is also historically linked to some climatic changes, which could well have adversely affected San Lorenzo. As a relatively primitive, developing culture, the people of San Lorenzo subsisted on a handful of core crops and hunting and fishing. A sudden change in climate could affect these crops as well as the nearby wildlife”.

We will leave this publication here. I will return and continue with the South American vestiges between the 3,000 to 1,000 BCE over the weekend, in a separate post. Stay tuned I will publish as soon as possible.

Thank you.


Source References utilized to write this article:

Disclaimer: All the presentation slides shown on this blog are prepared by Eleonora Escalante MBA-MEng. Nevertheless, all the pictures or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated

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