Ancient City In The Sky

Oaxaca Travel Blog

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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 AD 1050 the cerimonial center was reconstructed numerous time. Several structures show evidence of four construction phases. Archaeologist, for convienance have divided the history of the greater Oaxacan area into four time periods. Archaeological evidence from the first period, Monte Alban I (500 BC - AD 1) reveal an already advanced culture with an organized religous system including numerous gods, a priesthood and permanent religous 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-refief carvings of naked humans depicted in various dance-style postions.  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 (AD 1 - 300).
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 talisments. 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 (AD 300 - 800). 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 scuptures of sacrifice and captives. These scuptures are on the facades of the newly reconstructed buildings and the newly erected stelii. 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 patheon of of more than 30 identified gods. This patheon 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 builing facades incorporated a variation of the Teotihuacan "talud-tablero" - style.  The staircases were widened and given a more gentle slope. A grander, sunken ballcourt 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 AD 725 no new foreign influences have been identified. It appears that Monte Alban had lost contact with the rest of mesoamerica.
Monte Alban IV: By AD 800 the population was in decline. By AD 1000 Monte Albam was abandonded 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 AD 1150 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 AD 1250 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.                                                                                                                                                                                       





patirkc_AAA says:
Very nice post! Beautiful ruins from Oaxaca.
Posted on: Nov 26, 2015
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photo by: tonygiglio