Olmecoid Terracotta Sculpture of a Ballplayer - CK.0027, Origin: Morelos, Mexico, Circa: 1150 BC to 550 BC, Dimensions: 4" (10.2cm) high x 1.875" (4.8cm) wide, Collection: Pre-Columbian, Style: Olmecoid, Medium: Terracotta. The Olmecs are generally considered to be the ultimate ancestor of all subsequent Mesoamerican civilisations. Thriving between about 1200 and 400 BC, their base was the tropical lowlands of south central Mexico, an area characterized by swamps punctuated by low hill ridges and volcanoes. Here the Olmecs practiced advanced farming techniques and constructed permanent settlements. However, the consolidation of their city-states led to notable cultural influence far beyond their heartland, and throughout the Mesoamerican region. It would appear that the Olmec style became synonymous with elite status in other (predominantly highland) groups, with evidence for exchange of artefacts in both directions. A non-literate group, the Olmecs nevertheless paved the way for the development of writing systems in the loosely defined Epi- Olmec period (c. 500 BC). Further innovations include arguably the first use of the zero, so instrumental in the Maya long count vigesimal calendrical system. They also appear to have been the originators of the famous Mesoamerican ballgame so prevalent among later cultures in the region, and either retained or invented several religious symbols such as the feathered serpent and the rain spirit, which persisted in subsequent and related cultures until the middle ages.