Monte Alban

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Oaxaca, Mexico

Monte Alban Oaxaca Reviews

andrejav andrejav
651 reviews
Once there was a great civilization... Dec 02, 2012
Definitely NOT recommended place to go if you want to see anything old and original... Mexican government has been "fixing" this city for long long time and it looks very fake and forced... I was totally disappointed with the look and feel of this place. Stories that we got from the guides were interesting but in general just an “eye smear” so that something is interesting for tourist. Little museum that is part of the ruins complex has couple of interesting stelas but there is no English translation on any information (which is needed due to many foreigners visiting this spot).

Most of the important and beautiful artifacts from this area are taken away and you cant see them. You can probably see more of Mt. Alban culture in Berlin or London museums than in Oaxaca.

Just a tourist trap that can be EASILY avoided. There is many beautiful ruins and lots of great historical places in Mexico, and this is not the one to be visited.
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geokid geokid
146 reviews
Ancient City In The Sky Feb 24, 2009
Monte Alban is one of Mexico's most spectacular ancient sites. The original Zapotec name for this site is "Danni Dipaa". This site sits atop four hills, it was first occupied prior to 600 BC and continued to be occupied on and off until the arrival of the Spanish on December 25, 1521. From 600 BC to 1050 AD the ceremonial center was reconstructed numerous time. Several structures show evidence of four construction phases. Archaeologist, for convenience have divided the history of the greater Oaxacan area into four time periods. Archaeological evidence from the first period, Monte Alban I (500 BC - 1 AD) reveal an already advanced culture with an organized religious system including numerous gods, a priesthood and permanent religious structures.

Archaeological evidence reveals the use of a written language, the Olmec dot and bar numerical system and a calendar. The residential structure inventory included single room, dirt floor abodes and multiple room complexes with central plazas. This indicate an advanced stratified society had already developed. Visible monumental structures from this time period are rare. The only significant one, is the structure know as the "Danzantes" (Dancers). The facade has numerous Olmec-style, larger than life-size, low-relief carvings of naked humans depicted in various dance-style positions. Similar carvings have been found in the Olmec homeland of Veracruz and Tobasco States. Influences from the Maya of Chiapas and Guatamala are present during Monte Alban II Period (1 AD - 300 AD). The unusual Building J was erected during this period. It is arrow shaped and pointing southwest. There are interior passage-ways with a number of windows to the outside. Many archaeologist think this structure is a type of observatory. Also the Mayan "Bat God" is present in the icon inventory utilized during this time period. This Bat God symbol appears on buildings, stelae and as individual jade talismans. The finest example of the Bat God in jade is located in the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. Monte Alban reached its peak during the Period III (300 AD to 800 AD). The population may have grown as large as 45,000 individuals and the area occupied for the urban zone was larger than 3/4 of a square mile. The domestic area spread across the slopes of all four adjacent hills including the archaeological sites of Atzompa and El Gallo covering more than 2000 terraces. Numerous dams and an system of irrigation channels were built. Currently there has been three residential areas identified adjacent to the central plaza. An enclosure wall was constructed on the north and northwest sides. Zapotecan power expansion is depicted in more than 350 sculptures of sacrifice and captives. These sculptures are on the facades of the newly reconstructed buildings and the newly erected stelae. Physician care was readily available and advanced. There are at least ten skulls with successful trepanations performed and evidence of long term survival. There is evidence of funeral ceremonies performed in tomb structure. Numerous incensarios have been found depicting a pantheon of of more than 30 identified gods. This pantheon included the Cocijo god of rain the Xipe Tolec god of springtime. Most of the visible structures of the ceremonial center were rebuilt during this time period. The building facades incorporated a variation of the Teotihuacan "talud-tablero" - style. The staircases were widened and given a more gentle slope. A grander, sunken ball court was added and the use of carved stelae increased. Toward the end of this period the style of the pottery became stagnant and the quality dramatically declined. The number of gods worshiped dramatically increased. By 725 AD no new foreign influences have been identified. It appears that Monte Alban had lost contact with the rest of meso-america. Monte Alban IV: By 800 AD the population was in decline. By 1000 AD Monte Alban was abandoned for the most part. Only cult idol worship and funeral activities continued. The political power began to shift to Mitla. The cause(s) for the abandonment has not been agreed upon. Mixtec people began to arrive and interact with the Zapotecs remaining at the site. Some of the Zapotec tombs from earlier periods were reused by the Mixtec. By 1150 AD the central plaza and the surrounding structures were being used as the Mixtec ceremonial center. The rivalry between the minority Mixtecs and the Zapotecs increased. Numerous truces were established and broken. By 1250 AD the Mixtecs had established themselves as a minority ruling class and the two cultures had merged. This union resisted incursions into their territory by the Aztecs until the Spanish arrival. At that point the Mixtec/Zapotec alliance joined with the Spanish to defeat the Aztec.
Ball court

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photo by: tonygiglio