Jacques Soustelle discuss the presence of various animals among the Olmecs, such as the dog and turkey.

Jacques Soustelle

Jacques Soustelle, The Olmecs: The Oldest Civilization in Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 23, 29

University of Oklahoma Press
Jacques Soustelle
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Even today, as was surely true in antiquity as well, the jungle abounds in game of every sort: deer, tapirs, wild pigs, monkeys, pheasants, iguanas. It is probable that the Olmecs kept dogs and turkeys, animals domesticated in very early times on the American continent, but the destruction of any sort of bone remains, both human and animal, by the dampness and the acidity of the soil keeps us from being certain of this. Above all, the sea, the lakes, and the rivers furnished them with an inexhaustible supply of fish, crustaceans, shellfish, all foods rich in proteins and an excellent complement of the vegetable foods in their diet. The Olmec art of carving has left us numerous jade objects: models of boats, shells, aquatic birds. A sculpted stone slab from San Lorenzo (monument no. 58) represents an enormous fish. Certain stones found in excavations of various sites were no doubt weights for fishnets.

. . .

The Indians of the state of Veracruz speak either Nahua (in general the so-called nahuat variety, without the tl characteristic of Aztec) or dialects that are often pejoratively called popoloca and that belong to the Mixe-Zaquean linguistic family. The implantation of Nahua in this region is obviously a recent phenomenon. Mixe (the popoloca of Sayula and Oluta) and Zoque (the popoloca of the Sierra and of Texistepec) are ancient languages, firmly rooted in the states of Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chiapas since antiquity. In the south of Veracruz, the implantations of these dialects corresponds precisely to the Olmec region form Tres Zapotes to San Lorenzo.

It was on the basis of this observation that Lyle Campbell and Terrence Kaufman put forward the hypothesis that the language of the Olmecs was most likely a proto-Mixe-Zoquean; in support of their argument, they studied in particular the borrowing of Mixe-Zoquean words by other indigenous Mesoamerican languages. According to them, words designating cultivated plants and foods (gourd, cocoa, tomato, bean, maize cake), animals (dog, turkey), ritual elements (copal, incense), techniques (weaving, fishing), etc., were borrowed from Mixe-Zoquean by other languages. These words are tantamount to a “cultural inventory” which would appear to be consonant with that of the Olmecs around the middle or in the second half of the second millennium B.C. Hence the conclusion arrived at by Campbell and Kaufman: “The Olmecs, at least in part, spoke Mixe-Zoque languages.”

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