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Monte Alban

A view of the edificios and the Plataforma Norte

The site of Monte Alban was the capital of the ancient Zapotec Empire which ruled in the Oaxaca area for approximately 2,000 years. The site of Mote Alban saw its peak from about 300 to 700 AD and the population was approximately 25,000. Sometime before 1,000 AD the site was abandoned and fell into ruin.

Before this time, though, many of the buildings were plastered and painted red. Almost 200 underground tombs have been found around the site, some of them very elaborately painted with frescoes.

Here is a field for playing juego de pelota

Here is one of the tombs and a shot of its small interior, at bottom right. The rest of the walls were probably covered with similar carvings and painted bright colors. Many of the tombs are much more extensively built than this one, but most are closed to prevent wear and tear on the site.
In the above four photos, you can see Edificio L and some Danzante (dancer) carvings (you can see them in the larger picture in the lower right hand corner). They depict Zapotec leaders mutilating helpless captives. Some have blood flowing where their genitalia have been cut off. A bit hard to make out, but definitely worth examination if you go to Monte Alban.
This is the Sistema IV building and the towering Stela 18 in front of it (at right). This particular building contains elements from all the different phases of construction at Monte Alban, over a period of 2,000 years.

Monte Alban artwork and hieroglyphs

Another view of the Sistema IV

A view of the Plataforma Sur from the imposing Plataforma Norte

From the two Plataformas you get the best view of the entire site as well as some nice panaromas of hte surrounding area. This is a photo taken of the palaces and pyramids on the east side of the site. On the far left you can see the juego de pelota.
These three shots are some of the buildings of the ceremonial center that can be found on top of the Plataforma Norte. Make sure you climb each of the main platforms; there are some real gems that can only be seen from their high vantage points.

The oddly shaped Edificio J is believed to be an observatory

Here are two of the stelae that
can be seen around the site

Monte Alban is not to be missed during a visit to Oaxaca.
The site can be seen in a half-day trip, but you should allow
most of a day with the evening to explore some more of Oaxaca.


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