Justenson and Kaufman (1985) popularized the idea that the
Olmec spoke a Mixe-Zoque language.
is false the Olmec spoke Malinke-Bambara, a Mande language spoken in West
There are four problems with
Justenson and Kaufman decipherments of
Epi-Olmec: 1) there is no clear evidence of
Zoque speakers in Olmec areas 3200
ago, 2) there is no such thing as a "pre-Proto-Soquean/Zoquean language,
3)there is an absence of a Zoque substratum in
the Mayan languages , and 4) the lexical items associated with Justenson and
Kaufman’s decipherment can not be used to read the all the Epi-Olmec
First of all
,Justenson and Kaufman in their 1997 article claim that they read the
Epi-Olmec inscriptions using
"pre-Proto-Zoquean". This is impossible ,a "Pre-Proto"
language refers to the internal reconstruction of vowel patterns, not entire
words. Linguists can reconstruct a pre-proto language , but this language is
only related to internal developments within the target language.
Justenson and Kaufman base their claim of a Zoque origin for the
Olmec language on the presence of a few Zoque
speakers around mount Tuxtla.
Justeson and Kaufman maintain that the Olmec people spoke a Otomanguean
language. The Otomanguean family include Zapotec, Mixtec and Otomi
to name a few. The hypothesis that the Olmec
spoke an Otomanguean language is not supported by the contemporary spatial
distribution of the languages spoken in the
earlier Thomas Lee in R.J. Sharer and D. C. Grove (Eds.), Regional Perspectives
Olmecs, New York: Cambridge
University Press (1989, 223) noted that
"...closely Mixe, Zoque and Popoluca languages are spoken in
numerous villages in a mixed manner having little or no apparent semblance of
linguistic or spatial unity. The general assumption made by the few
investigators who have considered the situation, is that the modern linguistic
pattern is a result of the disruption of an Old homogeneous language group by
more powerful neighbors or invaders...."
linguistic evidence is correct, many of the languages in the Otomanguean family
are spoken by people who may have only recently settled in the Olmec heartland,
and may not reflect the people that invented the culture we call Olmecs today.
In a recent
by S.D. Houston and M.D. Coe,
asked the question “Has Isthmian writing been deciphered”, in the journal
Mexicon .In this article Houston and Coe attempted to use Justenson and
Kaufman’s Epi-Olmec vocabulary to
the inscriptions on the Teo Mask and found that they were not helpful at all.
They note that
“The text does not
provide much assurance that Justeson and Kaufman are on the mark….Would not
persuasive decipherment have led, as did Michael Ventris’ brilliant work
Linear B or Tatiana Proskouriakoff’s
on Maya, to compelling references to the context at hand , in this case a mask,
or to its owner?”( Houston & Coe, 2003, p.159).
The Justenson and
Kaufman hypothesis is not supported by the evidence for the origin of the Mayan
term for writing. The Mayan term for writing is not related to Zoque.
Soren Wichmann (2018a,2018b) has spent much of his time
researching the Mixe-Zoque languages, confirming Justenson and Kaufman’s
hypothesis that the Mixe-Zoque speakers were Olmecs, and the Olmec originated
on the Pacific coast, where he situates speakers of Proto-Mixe-Zoque (Wichmann,
speculates that there were multiple Mixe and Zoque languages spoken in Chiapas
between 1800-1600BC. He suggest that the speakers of Mixe-Zoque probably
belonged to the Mokaya, Bara or Ocos cultures.
There are several
problems with Wichmann’s theory. First, there is no archaeological evidence
linking the Mokaya, Bara and Ocos cultures on the Gulf Coast where the Olmec
civilization began. Secondly, the Olmec appear 600-400 years after the decline
of these cultures. Thirdly, the Olmec spoke Malinke-Bambara, which is a
substratum language of the Mayan and Mixe-Zoque language families.
make it clear that they got writing from another Meso-American group. Landa
noted that the Yucatec Maya claimed that they got writing from a group of
foreigners called Tutul Xiu from Nonoulco (Tozzer, 1941). Xiu is not the name
for the Zoque. But Xi, is the name for the Olmec people.
Brown has suggested
that the Mayan term c'ib' diffused from the Cholan and Yucatecan Maya to the
other Mayan speakers. This term is
derived from Mixe-Zoque. If the Maya had got writing from the Mixe-Zoque, the
term for writing would be found in a Mixe-Zoque language.
that there is no evidence that 1)the Zoque were in the ancient Olmec land
3200 years ago, 2)there is no Zoque substrate
language in Mayan,
3) you can not read
the Epi-Olmec inscriptions using the
Justenson and Kaufman method, an 4) there is no such thing as
"pre-Proto-Zoque" falsifies Justenson and Kaufman hypothesis.
suggested that the Mayan term c'ib' diffused from the Cholan and Yucatecan Maya
to the other Mayan speakers. This term is probably not derived from Mixe-Zoque.
If the Maya had got writing from the Mixe-Zoque, the term for writing would
Probably be found in a Mixe-Zoque language. The research indicates that no word
for writing exist in this language.
There are a number of Malinke-Bambara loans in Mixe. The
Mixe discussed in this section is Qaxacan, and include words ITom Mazatec,
Chinantec, Mixtec and Chatino.
The Mixe has
surprising Malinke-Bambara loans. These loans presented in the Figure , include
parts of the body, nouns for wind, house night and village, agricultural terms
( land of cultivation, maize, tomato) plus political terms such as lord,
village and king.
As among the
Mayans, the Mixe like the Malinke-Bambara prefix their pronouns.
yi, y 'he, she, it, the' n' amido:y "I ask"
y pe tp "he will
Malinke-Bambara we would have a ba " his mother"; a be so " he
is at horne', = 'she, he, it'.
Among the Malinke-Bambara loans in Mixe, there was full
correspondence between the /t/,/m/
/k/ in both languages. In other cases there was constrast between:
The constrast between the Mixe /c/
and Malinke-Bambara /t/
is most interesting because we have also
observed this same pattern in the Mayan languages. It also interesting to note
that many Malinke-Bambara loans in Mixe that begin with the /s/ consonant have
been nativized by changing this /s/,
just as the Yucatec speakers had done for their Olmec loans beginning
interesting to note that the Mixe loan po' 'wind', is derived from
Malinke¬Bambara fo/ po 'wind'. This is surprising because we find that in Mixe
with an initial /f/ are
pronounced with a /p/
pishka d 'highest dignitary', a
appear to have played an importatnt role in introducing agriculture to the
Mixe. This is obvious not only in the large number of loans for plants in Mixe,
but also the term they use for cultivation.
The Mixe make it
clear that cultivation takes place on the humid bottom land they call ta : k
kam . This Mixe word can not be explained in Mixe-Zoque. But when we look at
this word from the perspective of the Olmec language we find that it comes from
three Malinke-Bambara words ta ka ga 'this is the place of cultivation': ta
'place' , ka 'to be' ga 'terrain of cultivation, act of planting, to plant' .
The loans in Mixe make it clear that they were probably hunter-gatherers when
Olmec (Malinke-Bambara) speaking
people carne to Qaxaca in search of minerals to make their giant heads and jade
for their many artifacts.
The Mixe appear
to have used the loan ko 'head of something' , to construct many words in Mixe.
ko ca'ny 'chief
'of the night'
ku(n)dugu 'head of land, chief
The Mixe term
for calendar priest or kushi is probably also a loan from Olmec. The Olmec
(Malinke-Bambara) term for 'time' is sinye and san means 'year, sky'. This
suggest that the Mixe term kushi 'calendar priest, head priest', may come from
the combination of Olmec ko 'head' and sinye 'time' or ko-sinye 'head time
nativization of ko-sinye > kushi , would not be too surprising, since the
Mixe, if they were originally hunter-gatherers would have had no need for a
person to record the seasons" a calendar priest', until they began the
domestication of the crops
Qaxaca by the Olmec people when they settled the region to exploit the rich
mineral deposits found in this part of Mexico.
widespread adoption of Olmec/ Malinke-Bambara lexical and grammatical features
in the Mayan, Mixe and Otomi languages indicate a close relationship among the
speakers of these languages in Pre-Classic Mexico. The shared diffused
grammatical, lexical and phonological features discussed in this paper are
probably the result from an extended period of bilingualism in ancient Mexico
the Malinke-Bambara speaking
Olmecs, and their Otomi, Mayan and Mixe neigbors.
The Olmecs came from Africa. There is no evidence that the
Olmec existed in Mexico before 1200-1100 BC.
The archaeological evidence suggest that the Olmec
"miraculously appear on American soil". Some researchers claim that I
am wrongly ruling out an “indigenous revolution” for the origin of the Olmec
civilization. This is their opinion—the archaeological evidence, not I, suggest
that the founders of the Olmec civilization were not “indigenous” people.
In the Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership
(1995), (ed.) by Carolyn Tate, on page 65, we find the following
statement”Olmec culture as far as we know seems to have no antecedents; no
material models remain for its monumental constructions and sculptures and the
ritual acts captured in small objects”.
M. Coe, writing in Regional Perspective on the Olmecs
(1989), (ed.) by Sharer and Grove, observed that “ on the contrary, the
evidence although negative, is that the Olmec style of art, and Olmec
engineering ability suddenly appeared full fledged from about 1200 BC”.
Mary E. Pye, writing in Olmec Archaeology in Mesoamerica
(2000), (ed.) by J.E. Cark and M.E. Pye,makes it clear after a discussion of
the pre-Olmec civilizations of the Mokaya tradition, that these cultures
contributed nothing to the rise of the Olmec culture. Pye wrote “The Mokaya
appear to have gradually come under Olmec influence during Cherla times and to
have adopted Olmec ways. We use the term olmecization to describe the processes
whereby independent groups tried to become Olmecs, or to become like the
Olmecs” (p.234). Pye makes it clear that it was around 1200 BC that Olmec
civilization rose in Mesoamerica. She continues “Much of the current debate
about the Olmecs concerns the traditional mother culture view. For us this is
still a primary issue. Our data from the Pacific coast show that the mother
culture idea is still viable in terms of cultural practices. The early Olmecs
created the first civilization in Mesoamerica; they had no peers, only
Richard A. Diehl The Olmecs:America’s first civilization
(2005), wrote “ The identity of these first Olmecs remains a mystery. Some
scholars believe they were Mokaya migrants from the Pacific coast of Chiapas
who brought improved maize strains and incipient social stratification with
them. Others propose that Olmec culture evolved among the local indigenous
populations without significant external stimulus. I prefer the latter
position, but freely admit that we lack sufficient information on the period
before 1500 BC to resolve the issue” (p.25).
Pool , in Olmec Archaeology and early MesoAmerica
(2007), argues that continuity exist between the Olmec and pre-Olmec cultures
in Mexico “[even]though Coe now appears to favor an autochthonous origin for
Olmec culture (Diehl & Coe 1995:150), he long held that the Olmec traits
appeared at San Lorenzo rather suddenly during the Chicharras phase (ca
1450-1408 BC) (Coe 1970a:25,32; Coe and Diehl 1980a:150)”. Pool admits (p.95),
that “this conclusion contrasts markedly with that of the excavators of San
Lorenzo, who reported dramatic change in ceramic type and argued on this basis
for a foreign incursion of Olmecs into Olman (Coe and Diehl 1980a, p.150).”
The evidence presented by these authors make it clear that
the Olmec introduced a unique culture to Mesoamerica that was adopted by the
Mesoamericans. As these statements make it clear that was no continuity between
pre-Olmec cultures and the Olmec culture.
The Olmec came from Saharan Africa. They spoke a Mande
language. Evidence of this connection comes from the fact:
2) both groups made large stone heads. Here is an African
head dating back to the same period.
3) The Mande came to Mexico in boats from the Sahara down
the ancient Niger River that formerly emptied in the Sahara or they could have
made their way to the Atlantic Ocean down the Senegal River.
4) The Olmec writing
points back to a Mande origin in Africa.
5) Olmec skeletons that are African.
6) Similar white, and red-and-black pottery.
7)The Mande speaking Olmec
introduced of the 13 month 20 day calendar.
8) Mayan adoption of the Mande term for writing.
9)Mande religious and culture terms adopted by Mayan people.
The fact that 1) there is no archaeological evidence that the Zoque were in the ancient Olmec land on the Atlantic Gulf 3200 years ago, 2)there is no Zoque
substrate language in Mayan, 3) there was no migration of Mokaya or Bara culture bearers from Chiapas to the Gulf, and 4) there is no such thing as
"pre-Proto-Zoque" this falsifies Justenson, Kaufman and Wichmann hypotheses. The Olmec did not speak Mixe-Zoque.
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