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Monte Albán

Oaxaca, Oaxaca

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Monte Albán viewed from the south pyramid

The Olmec/Zapotec center, Monte Albán, sits on a hilltop 400 meters above the valley floor near the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. The site is at the confluence of three large valleys, the Tlacolula Valley to the east, the Etla Valley to the north, and the Zimatlán-Ocotlán Valley to the south, all fertile agricultural regions.

Monte Albán began to emerge as a regional center sometime around 500 B.C. It's function seems to have been to unite the people of the three valley regions. The early architecture shows Olmec influence. According to our guide, the Zapotec later took control and rebuilt the center in their own style by building over (encasing) the original structures.

As seen in the photo at left, the steep steps typical of pre-Columbian sites are not made for ease of climbing. The different levels are symbolic of the levels of deity and authority and were scaled by the priests or rulers.

The photos above shows the north platform at Monte Albán. Note the patches of white plaster. In ancient times, the entire face was plastered smooth and painted in bright colors.

Many of the carving on display on the grounds of Monte Albán are reproductions of the originals.

Photos from the Onsite Museum

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The Pacific Coast of Mexico www.tomzap.com Tom Penick:  tom@tomzap.com