First civilization of Mesoamerica and thought to be the mother culture of the Mayans. It developed in the coastal zone S of Vera Cruz and in adjacent Tabasco 1200–400 BC. The Olmecs built a large clay pyramid and several smaller mounds on the island of La Venta. Some gigantic stone heads, vestiges of their religion, also remain. The naturalistic Olmec art had a distinctive and influential style, often using the “were-jaguar” motif of a sexless figure with fangs.