Olmec Kings


Clyde A. Winters,


The Olmec inscriptions record the names and deeds of many political officials, religious leaders and Kings (Winters, 1997). The Olmec inscriptions indicate that each Olmec town was ruled by either a governor or King, and that their was a recognized religious leader for the entire community (Winters, 1997).

The Olmec King was usually referred to as Tu. The Olmec term for governor was Ku. Interestingly, some of the Olmec rulers were referred to as the Ku and Tu. This may suggest that the Olmec civilization may have been organized into a confederation of city-states lead by a recognized emperor .

The Olmec emperor may have appointed the local government heads or Ku (governors). The fact that some Olmec rulers referred to themselves as Ku Tu, or both governor and King may reflect the Olmec Emperor's appointment of conquered Kings as governors over Olmec cities they formerly mastered as a result of divine right.

One the most interesting Olmec historical documents is the Mask from Rio Pesquero Veracruz.



According to the inscriptions on the mask, it was worn by Bada, who was recognized as the local Ku and chief La (leader of the stone mason's caste) (Gutherie, 1995: 268, illustration No.186).

Between 900-600 BC one of the major rulers at Guerrero was Po Ngbe (Gutherie, 1995: 231, illustration No.127). There is also an important tablet from Ahuelican, Guerrero of mottled green stone that also mentions King Po Ngbe, and his building of a great temple at his site.

The Guerrero celt makes it clear that Po Ngbe was recognized as a member of the craftsmen caste. He was ruler of the place where these artifacts were found.

This celt also makes it clear that Po Ngbe was probably buried in a pyramid. This view is supported by the Ahuelican, Guerrero Tablet. This artifact was made of the same stone as the Teo mask and the Guerrero celt.

Recently a mask of Po Ngbe was recently discovered and published. The mask of Po Ngbe has an inscription written on the inside of the mask.

On the back of the Teo mask we find an inscription. The are six columns of text on the Teo mask. Some researchers refer to this writing as Epi-Olmec or Isthmian. In reality this is just the heiroglyphic form of Olmec writing. This form of writing combines two or more singular Olmec signs to form messages.

In the first column of the Teo Mask inscription we read the following:“(1) Cause (here) the conferring of all virtue to this very good abode.(2)Admiration indeed (Oh) Governor. Indeed (you are) wonder. (3) Thou (art) a spirit of tranquility .(4) (Thou art like) the Jaguar (a master of the bush).(5) Righteousness takes root here in this tomb of (6) Na Po Ngbe.(7) This habitation of the devotee (is) a habitation of propriety. (8) Order (Na Po Ngbe) this object of respect to be an envoy on a mission (9) (to) hold upright purity. He who is a powerful spirit (in) thine tomb.(10) Righteousness takes root here (in your) tomb.(11) [Na Po Ngbe] A boundless source of great spiritual tranquility (your) abode. The tomb is powerful.(12) lay low (the celebrity) [in the tomb] to realize spiritual tranquility.”

One of the most interesting political elites of the Olmec was Bu. Bu is the kneeling figure from Veracruz, known as the "Shaman in Transformation" (Gutherie, 1995: 169-170).

In reading the inscription on the head of this figure, we discover that Bu was a member of the stone mason caste, who later became governor of Veracruz.

The major Epi-Olmec inscriptions have also been deciphered (Winters, 1997). These inscriptions are found in Jaguar Pyramids found under Mayan pyramids.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Olmec played a prominent role in the rise of Mayan civilization. In Guatemala, we find jaguar stucco masks on the pyra­mids of EI Mirador Structure 34, Cerros Structure 5C-2nd, E-VII Sub at Takalik Uxaxatun, and Structure 5D 22-2nd at Tikal. These jaguar masks are identical to Olmec jaguar masks: Stela C Tres Zapotes, the La Venta Sarcophagus, and Monu­ment 15 La Venta. In this presentation, we test the hypothesis that there is a corre­lation between the pre-Classic Guatemalan writing and the (Epi)Olmec writing of Mexico. The purpose of this project is to compare these symbols to fully decipher the inscriptions of Guatemala, and to learn more about the religious and politi­cal system of the pre-Classic Guatemalans.

There are interesting Epi-Olmec inscriptions associated with the San Bartolo mural. The San Bartolo mural is identical to the faces on the Chalchuapa, EI Salvador Olmec Maize God (Clark & Pye [2000] 312), and the figure wearing the maize god mask of La Venta Monument 44 (Clark & Pye [2000] 302). The results of the research indicate that the hieroglyphics associated with Guatemalan ancient tombs and the monuments from EI Baul, Abaj Takalik, Chiapa de Corzo, and Tres Zapotes have Maya type glyphs and are different from Classic Mayan writing but identical to the (Epi)Olmec signs on the side panel of the Mojara monument.

The San Bartolo, Guatemala murals are very beautiful they were discovered by William Saturno of the University of New Hampshire. These murals were found in an unexcavated pyramid. Entering a looter’s trench Dr. Saturno dug into the pyramid and discovered the murals. Much of the mural was destroyed when the Maya built another pyramid over the original structure. In the San Bartolo mural we see pictures of the coronation of an Epi Olmec King


The San Bartolo pyramid has two murals. One of the murals is of a procession of people on a boat . The other mural is of King Tali, sitting on his pyramid.

On the boat there are a number of figures. Moving from right to left we see four standing figures nearest the end of the boat. These figures are carrying bundles raised above their heads.

In front of these figures we see several symbols. These symbols provide context to the procession. There are a number of female figures on the boat. The woman near the Corn God has writing symbols on their faces. The kneeling figure holding the vase on the far left side toward the end has the words gyo ti “righteous cult specialist” on her cheek. The standing female figure in front of the last three symbols placed in front of the person carrying gifts has the words ti i “she is righteous” written on her cheek.

Most researchers have assumed that this pyramid was built by the Maya. Although this is the popular view, this pyramid was probably built by the Olmec. And the Maya probably built a new pyramid over the original Olmec pyramid. The person in the coronation scene was Governor

Under many pyramids found in Guatemala and Belize we find stucco-modeled jaguar pyramids. These pyramids with jaguar mask and large earrings predate all the Mayan pyramids. They are found at Uaxactun, Tikal and Cerros.

Two of the longest Epi-Olmec inscriptions come from Tuxtla .

The Epi-Olmec inscriptions record calendrical dates, in addition to important information on the reigns of Governor TuTu at Tuxtla, and King Yo Pe of Mojarra. Yo Pe was born on 21 May 143 AD, he was recognized as the ruler of Mojarra and also the Se Gyo (religious leader with considerable wonder making ability).

Other Epi-Olmec rulers include Ki, who was buried in tomb 1, at Rio Azul in Guatemala, and King Kele, the ruler buried at Tikal, beneath Structure 5D 33-2nd.

In summary the Native American traditions make it clear that they were not the first people to inhabit the area associated with Olmec archaeology. The settlers of thes area were probably Manding people from West/ Northwest Africa. These Manding speaking people came to Mexico in twelve waves of immigrants around 1200 B.C.

The Manding speaking ancestors of the Olmecs came from the Saharan zone of North Africa (Winters, 1983, 1984c, 1986). Here the Proto-Olmecs left their earliest inscriptions at Oued Mertoutek (Winters, 1979,1983). They took a full fledged literate culture to Mexico.

This view is supported both by 1) our ability to read the Olmec inscriptions; 2) confirmation that the Mayan term for writing *c'ib, is of Manding origin; and 3) the symbols for Mayan writing are cognate to the Manding writing systems used in Africa. Moreover, the evidence presented in this paper makes it clear that the people who introduced writing to the Maya when they met at Nonoulco, may have been Manding speaking Olmecs..

Discovery at Olmec sites such as LaVenta Offering No.4 , of Manding writing provide the "absolute proof " of African and Olmec contact. The presence of readable African writing on Olmec celts, masks and statues, is the genuine African artifact found "in controlled excavations in the New World" that confirms the Afrocentric claim of ancient African and Olmec contact.

The existence of African writing on Olmec artifacts is confirmation of the African influence among the Olmecs (Winters, 1979, 1997). It is an historical fact that fails to minimizes the role of Native Americans as actors in their own history, because the Africanized Olmec people had their own civilization, while the Aztecs and Mayas had theirs. This Afrocentric view of ancient American history instead of denigrating Native Americans acknowledges the truth, that all three civilizations made their own unique contributions to the great ancient history of Meso-America.



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