The Olmec have been identified by what remains of their technically impressive and naturally expressive sculpture, which they crafted on both small and grand scales. The Olmec were an early culture (1200 - 600 B.C.) and are thought to have been one of the first peoples to establish and exhibit many of the hallmarks of larger Mesoamerican civilization. The Olmec founded several powerful centres in what are now the Gulf Coastal Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco, a tropical lowland environment. The Olmec were not alone in this region and where surely influenced by their neighbours and by the older cultures that had previously lived in the area.
One of the more unique remains of Olmec culture are the colossal, carved stone heads they created (see left). Who the colossal heads were meant to represent is not known; however, it has been suggested that they were made to be portraits of rulers. Each head is different, with slight variations in expression and features. They are all adorned with helmet-like headdresses.