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Oldest New World Writing Suggests Olmec Innovation

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Science  06 Dec 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5600, pp. 1872-1874
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5600.1872

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Inscribed characters that resemble those used in the later Maya script and calendar, reported on page 1984, suggest that the Olmec were the first American scribes, boosting the theory that they heavily influenced later cultures. The authors argue that one fragment names a king and a date, indicating that, as with the Maya, early writing was intricately involved with both royalty and the calendar. But other experts counter that the new artifacts are too fragmentary to resolve the enduring question of Olmec influence, or even how writing developed in Mesoamerica.