MONTE ALBAN

México » States » Oaxaca » Monte Alban

Archaeological Site of MONTE ALBAN

Monte Alban is the most important archaeological zone of the Oaxacan entity, of unique regional importance due to the religious, political and economic control that the Zapotec state exercised over the population of the Valley of Oaxaca for more than thirteen centuries. It has been named by UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity together with the city of Oaxaca on December 11, 1987.

Monte Alban - Ball Game
Monte Alban – Ball Game

The heritage of the Zapotec world reaches us through the magnificent archaeological sites designed in the Valley of Oaxaca. Of these, the city of Monte Albán stands out for its enormous importance as an economic, political and religious hub (it was the first urban complex in Mesoamerica); by its extension, almost as big as the current capital of Oaxaca; and for its long life, started around 500 BC and concluded around 850 AD

The city is surrounded by several mountains strategically located at the confluence of the arms that form the great Valley of Oaxaca. There are three groups that make up the site: Monte Albán, Atzompa and El Gallo, all configured by archaeological monuments on the peaks and by series of cultivation terraces on the slopes.

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Map of MONTE ALBAN

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Museum

Reopened in November 1994, the Monte Albán Site Museum houses part of the collection of Engraved Stelae found in the archaeological zone, which show the development of the writing system during the four phases of the Zapotec occupation of this archaeological site (500 BC- 800 AD). With a selection of pieces mostly from the 1992-1994 Special Archeology Project, the Site Museum introduces visitors to all relevant topics of the pre-Hispanic Zapotec world: architecture, chronology, ceramics, writing, commerce and funerary practices.

Monte Alban - Museum
Monte Alban – Museum

The archaeological city of Monte Albán is located at a maximum height of 400 meters above the level of the Valley and 1900 above sea level. It is located towards the west side of the Atoyac River, about seven kilometers from the center of the city of Oaxaca, with which it communicates by tourist access, west of the Tecnológico de Oaxaca, or by the route that emerges from San Juan Chapultepec , which is reached via the food market.

The Archaeological Zone of Monte Albán can be reached from the city of Oaxaca de Juárez by two routes: the first of them is through the old highway to Monte Albán (towards Xoxocotlán), passing through the communities of San Juan Chapultepec and San Martín Mexicapan; the second way is the highway that leads to Santa María Atzompa, taking the deviation towards Monte Albán; both with a journey of 10 km and an approximate travel time of 25 minutes from the city center.

Site description

Its main buildings: The Great Plaza, Ball Court, System II, Los Danzantes, Building “J”, GHI Central Buildings, The Palace, South Platform, System 7 Venado and Tomb number 7 The Great Plaza. It is 200 more long by 200 meters wide, so the rocky ledges had to be trimmed and some gaps filled.

Monte Alban

Ball game

It is located to the left of the entrance to the Great Plaza, generally presents the characteristics of the ball games of the region, it is believed that the rings were installed with wooden posts, hence the absence of these in the area.

Monte Alban - The Dancers
Monte Alban – The Dancers

The Dancers

This three-section building belongs to period III B, with sloping walls covered with sculpted tombstones with representations of human figures in very strange positions and with physical features characteristic of Olmec sculpture.

System II

It is a two-section structure with a stairway, flanked by two rafters, finished in slopes and double scapular panels. In the upper part there is a small temple with a rectangular base with five columns in front and as many in the back without side walls; To the south of this element there is a roofed tunnel with an angular vault that communicates with the central buildings.

The Observatory, Building “J”

Monte Alban - Observatory
Monte Alban – Observatory

It is separated from the other buildings, it is undoubtedly one of the most interesting, due to its orientation and shape. It resembles an arrowhead, it is of two bodies, its stairway is oriented towards the northwest, its walls are vertical, covered with tombstones with inscriptions, it is believed that the previous chamber served for astronomical observations but this is not proven; this building belongs to period II.

GHI Central Buildings

These buildings are located in the central part of the great square. The central building “H” is the largest, it has two bodies, with a large staircase, two tombs and the temple in the upper part with two chambers and two columns at the entrance, very close to the side walls. It is believed that this building belongs to period III A, it continued to be used at the end of period III b. In front of the main staircase there is a small temple with a quadrangular base, in which the famous mask of the Bat God was found, made of jade.

The Palace

It is a structure made up of two bodies, with a central staircase, with balustrades finished in the shape of a slope, it has 13 rooms in the upper part grouped around a central patio, on the entrance to this set there is a lintel, recently placed.

South Platform

Monte Alban - South Platform
Monte Alban – South Platform

It is a very large structure that closes the square on that side. Of two bodies, in the upper part there are two mounds, from this place the great ceremonial plaza can be fully observed. In the lower part of this and in the corners are embedded several stelae with reliefs of zoomorphic figures, as well as some offerings.

System “7 Venado”

To get to this place it is advisable to walk on the upper part of the south platform, towards the southeast which is located about 250 meters away from the main square. There are four structures around a square oriented towards the four cardinal points.

Tomb No. 7

When exploring it on January 6, 1932, the Mexican archaeologist Dr. Alfonso Caso, found a burial with a rich amount of offerings, considered a great archaeological treasure, which is exposed in the Regional Museum of Oaxaca. The layout of the tomb has a rectangular base, consisting of an antechamber and a chamber with an angular vault cover. It is one of the few that have been found, although already deteriorated with its offerings intact.

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