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Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico - Ancient Zapotec city (100 BC to 900 AD)
(August 2000)

The ancient center of Zapotec culture, the site of Monte Albán was inhabited for over 1500 years.

Although initial construction started around 800 BC, the Zapotecs only arrived about 100 BC and, over time, built the city up to its zenith around 500 AD.The architecture of Monte Albán shows strong stylistic influence from Teotihuacán, a large site hundreds of kilometers to the north, suggesting links between these cultures.

Monte Albán is located on an artificially flattened plateau extending for around 40 square kilometers (15 square miles). The site features a sophisticated drainage and tunnel system linking buildings on opposite sides of the plaza. In all, a magnificent feat of engineering.

For reasons that are not clear the site was eventually abandoned over the period 700 to 1000 AD. The Mixtecs continued to use the site as a high-status burial ground up until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. The ancient name of the site is not known with certainty.
 
Click for larger image! Map of Monte Albán - A map of the site shows the main feature plus indicates where each photo was taken from!You may find it useful to enlarge the map (just click on it) and refer to it while enjoying the photos. Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Building J - The most intriguing building on the site (if a little unimaginatively named), it is believed that the unusual angles were aligned with certain celestial events, making the building an early observatory. Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Map of Monte Albán

A map of the site shows the main feature plus indicates where each photo was taken from!You may find it useful to enlarge the map (just click on it) and refer to it while enjoying the photos.

Building J

The most intriguing building on the site (if a little unimaginatively named), it is believed that the unusual angles were aligned with certain celestial events, making the building an early observatory.

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Click for larger image! Ball Court - As in many pre-hispanic cultures, some form of ball game appears to have been a significant feature in Zapotec society. Such games often had a spiritual significance. Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Building J (northwest face) - The plan of building J has an arrowhead shape, with a large staircase (shown here) forming the base of the arrow. Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Ball Court

As in many pre-hispanic cultures, some form of ball game appears to have been a significant feature in Zapotec society. Such games often had a spiritual significance.

Building J (northwest face)

The plan of building J has an arrowhead shape, with a large staircase (shown here) forming the base of the arrow.

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Click for larger image! Los Danzantes - This, one of the oldest structures, is so named ('the dancers' in English) because of the presence of a number of engraved stones depicting what were initially considered to be dancers (see next picture). Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Danzante figure - One of a number of stone engravings originally thought to depict dancers. More recent theories suggest that in fact these engravings are of castrated enemy soldiers! Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Los Danzantes

This, one of the oldest structures, is so named ('the dancers' in English) because of the presence of a number of engraved stones depicting what were initially considered to be dancers (see next picture).

Danzante figure

One of a number of stone engravings originally thought to depict dancers. More recent theories suggest that in fact these engravings are of castrated enemy soldiers!

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Click for larger image! East Buildings - One of the many magnificent structures of the site. A network of tunnels connected important buildings such as this one. The entrance to the tunnel appears at the far right of the picture Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Truncated Pyramid - The site features a number of truncated pyramids such as this one overlooking the Grand Plaza from the west. The surrounding Zapotec realm could be viewed from these platforms. An interesting stone monument appears center left in the picture. Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
East Buildings

One of the many magnificent structures of the site. A network of tunnels connected important buildings such as this one. The entrance to the tunnel appears at the far right of the picture

Truncated Pyramid

The site features a number of truncated pyramids such as this one overlooking the Grand Plaza from the west. The surrounding Zapotec realm could be viewed from these platforms. An interesting stone monument appears center left in the picture.

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Click for larger image! Local Culture - In a nearby market a woman offers a local drink, Tejate, which is probably unlike anything you'll experience again! The ingredients include maize (corn), coconut, and cocoa but you'll have to try it yourself! Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Click for larger image! Ancient Milling - A common feature of all local ruins is the presence of ancient milling tools used for grinding maize (corn) and grains. These stone blocks and rolling pins are still in use today by the local population, as well as serving a certain decorative function! Keywords: Monte,Alban,Monte Alban,Oaxaca,Mexico,ancient,ruins,zapotec,zapotecan,city,ciudad,ceremonial,burial,tomb,ball court,pelota,juego de pelota
(Click to view)
Local Culture

In a nearby market a woman offers a local drink, Tejate, which is probably unlike anything you'll experience again! The ingredients include maize (corn), coconut, and cocoa but you'll have to try it yourself!

Ancient Milling

A common feature of all local ruins is the presence of ancient milling tools used for grinding maize (corn) and grains. These stone blocks and rolling pins are still in use today by the local population, as well as serving a certain decorative function!

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Information

Location:
Monte Albán is located just outside the city of Oaxaca, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Getting there:
Air: Oaxaca airport (code OAX) provides air service to Oaxaca.

Bus: There is regular bus service between Oaxaca and most major cities in Mexico. Oaxaca is a 5 to 6 hour bus journey from Mexico City.

Car: The 'autopista' between Mexico City and Oaxaca is in very good condition (at time of writing!). The drive takes between 4 and 6 hours depending on conditions.

Nearby attractions:
There are a wealth of archaeological sites to visit in the state of Oaxaca, including Mitla (the population center that succeeded Monte Albán), Yagul, and Dainzu.

In the city of Oaxaca there is the colonial architecture, museums, churches and warm atmosphere to enjoy.

A short drive or bus journey away is the Tule Tree - by some measures the biggest tree in the world and certainly worth a visit!

Further afield, the beautiful pacific coast is a 7 hour bus ride or drive away. Puerto Angel, Puerto Escondido, and Huatulco are amongst the most popular beach destinations.

Links:

http://www.celerina.com/Montealban.html
Online Zapotec handmade carpet store with information and photos about Monte Albán and Zapotec culture.

http://studentweb.tulane.edu/~dhixson/montealban/montealban.html
A good selection of photographs and descriptions of the principal features of Monte Albán.

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Cuba - Rotorua, New Zealand - Christ Church, Dublin - Monument Valley, Arizona - Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico - Staffa, Scotland - Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico - Costa Rica - Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico - Fiesta, Mexico City - Making Lacquer, Olinalá, Mexico - Talavera Ceramics, Puebla, Mexico - Mata Ortiz Pottery, Mexico - Lebanon
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