The history that archaeologists have been able to uncover of of Monte Albán begins circa 900 BC. The ancient Zapotec began constructing the structures that belong to this realm, in the process flattening a mountaintop for convenience. Their early influences stem from the Olmec culture. The locale of Monte Albán was selected by the Zapotecs for its relative ease of defense.
Zapotec culture reached its apex circa 550 - 1000 AD, in the period now labelled Mesoamerican Classic Era.
The society eventually declined, or at least was not as vibrant, and by circa 1300 AD the Zapotec were supplanted by the Mixtec. The Mixtec retained control of this region up until the late 1400's, when they were conquered by the Aztecs, led by Ahuitzotl. These last remained in short-lived control until Columbian displacement.
The maximal population of this city, curing the II and III classical periods, perhaps numbered in the 20 thousands.
The Zapotecs at Monte Albán:
The Zapotecs built at Monte Albán over centuries, incorporating the earlier structures into more modern or larger buildings as the need came to them.
The Zapotec culture here at Monte Albán is represented by several underground tombs, where notables have been interred. There is also an extensive system of tunnels, some of which go to buildings, some of which just seem to go to the edge of the site.
There is also a ball court towards the north, elongated with a central stone marker, but no rings. Here, we may well see championship ball games being played.
On the North Platform, there are many buildings, some identified as temples and support staff. On the South Platform there is an unusually-shaped building (Building J) where right angles were not incorporated into the plan. This is the astronomical observatory of Monte Albán.
In the center of the site stands a proud palace of an unknown dignitary. Other homes would have graced a less central position. This was a thriving community of Zapotecs: nobility, warriors, priests, craftsmen, servants, farmers.
The Mixtecs at Monte Albán:
The Mixtecs hail from the western portion of the Oaxaca Valley. Linguistically, they hail from the Otomanguean family of languages. The name, Mixtecapan, is an Aztec word meaning 'Place of the Cloud People'; depending on which branch of their own language is used, they refer to themselves as the Sa'an Davi, Da'an Davi or Tu'un Savi. Like the Zapotec before them, when they conquered Monte Albán - likely through Zapotec internal weaknesses - they built upon the existing structures, adapting places to their own needs. The location remained a religious center as well as a fortress. No doubt the ball court continued to rank in importance.
Both the Zapotec and Mixtec people found Monte Albán to be highly defensible, and a good seat for government. People from all walks of life had a place in the beautiful countryside of Monte Albán. A map is forthcoming.
Wikipedia - Monte Albán
Monte Albán Photo Gallery
The Mixteco World
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