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The Olmecs: America's First Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places) Paperback – November 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0500285039 ISBN-10: 0500285039

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Product Details

  • Series: Ancient Peoples and Places
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500285039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500285039
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The first truly complete and authoritative account of this 3,000-year-old culture."

About the Author

Richard A. Diehl is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. He has conducted archaeological investigations in Mexico at Tula and the Basin of Mexico, as well as San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Mojarra, and Matacapan in southern Veracruz state.

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Customer Reviews

It's a good, basic reference book for anyone interested in the Olmec civilization.
Stanley C. Sargent
For that, you need a real scholar, not an academic anxious about what his peers might think of his dissenting opinions.
John David Ebert
This book was required for a course that I took with Dr. F. Kent Reilly at Texas State University.
Eli Hernandez, Jr

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Surprisingly enough, academician and scholar Richard Diehl's The Olmecs: America's First Civilization is the first complete survey and overview analysis of the peoples who created the first complex culture in Mesoamerica, adding new information from recent archaeological findings to consider Olmec life, culture and art. Diehl's background as a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama and his personal experience conducting archaeological investigations in Mexico lend appreciable substance and insight to his authoritative, "reader friendly" coverage, which is packed with illustrative black and white photos of Olmec relics. Highly recommended!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By James Graham on March 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
In The Olmecs (2004), Richard Diehl presents a comprehensive summary of the current state of knowledge of America's first civilization. The volume covers Olmec history, daily life and culture, art, and the impact of the Olmec beyond their realm. Much of this information was previously available in scholarly journals only. Many fine illustrations (some in color) fill this book. Throughout the book the author shows how ideas about Olmec history and culture have changed as new information has become available. His enthusiasm for his subject is evident. In the final chapter on Epi-Olmec culture, the author observes "the piedmont and plain between the Tuxtla mountains and the town of Alvarado contain many large unexplored ancient centers." Clearly much more can still be learned about the Olmec, and opportunities exist for enterprising students.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Sky on August 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I had expected a little bit more. Richard Diehl's "The Olmec. America's First Civilization" is a typical Thames and Hudson "Ancient People and Places" Publication (like M. Coe's "The Maya" or R. Townsend's "The Aztec"): "reader friendly" as expressed by another review, clearly not too academic (that means dissapointing to the scholar), light style. Probably due to the lack of data there is quite a lot of speculation and repetition. Like the recent "Olmeca: Balance y Perspectivas"-Roundtable it is very much a proof that not much has happened since 1996 "The Olmec World-Ritual and Rulership". It is still nice reading and surely informative for travellers, beginning students and laymen alike.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Eli Hernandez, Jr on January 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was required for a course that I took with Dr. F. Kent Reilly at Texas State University. Between the its outstanding information and the information shared by Dr. Reilly in class, I learned more about the Olmec (or more correctly the Mixe Zoque) than I had ever imagined. Dehl reviews the sites from San Lorenzo to La Venta, he shares Olmec daily life and culture, and discusses Olmec influence in Eastern and Western Mesoamerica, and concludes the book with a look at the Epi-Olmec cultures. To top it off, the price makes this book an easy buy!

This book is an absolute must have for any Mesoamerican or Mixe Zoque enthusiast!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Max E. White on March 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an easy-to-read, though technical book. It presents the current state of knowledge of the earliest civilization in Mesoamerica, and the origin of much of what appears in Maya culture later on (calendar, writing, etc.). I am very thankful that the author gives the English measurement equivalents to the metric system, for many of us do not use the metric system and are totally lost when reading about hectares, meters, etc. I recommend this book to anyone interested in New World archaeology and the origins of complex societies.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By John David Ebert on June 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
Richard Diehl's book is an adequate survey of Olmec art and culture. That is, there is nothing special about it, but it's not particularly bad, either.

However, at one point, Diehl makes a comment that is worth examining a little more closely. In discussing a collection of sixteen stone figurines buried at La Venta together with a collection of jade celts, he says: "Despite the obvious reworking, one self-styled expert in ancient writing systems recently misidentified the engraved lines on the four as examples of Chinese writing, offering them as 'evidence' that the Olmecs were pre-Columbian migrants from China!" This is found on page 73 of the paperback edition.

First of all, the 'self-styled expert' that Diehl is here talking about is actually a Chinese professor, Han Ping Chen from Beijing, who is not just an expert in general writing systems, as Diehl's dismissive comment would have the reader believe, but specifically one of about a dozen or so professors in the world specializing in Shang Dynasty writing. As the article in U.S. News & World Reports dating 10/27/1996 states, Chen visited the National Gallery in Washington to see these jade celts at an Olmec art exhibition, and he claimed that he could "easily read" the writing on one of the celts as Shang Dynasty, which he translated as "Rulers and chieftains here establish a new kingdom." Chen is a respected professor, not some whacko, as Diehl would have you believe in order to discredit Chen's finding.

The fact is that American scholars of Mesoamerican art and culture have an emotional prejudice against any ideas that Mesoamerican civilization was influenced, especially at its origin point, by Chinese or Asian civilizations. They have claimed that this is an "insult to indigenous Americans.
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