Exploring Monte Albán

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than  by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover…. Mark Twain
Monte Albán is the most important archaeological site in Oaxaca.  Monte Albán was established 500 years before Palenque, 1,000 years before Chicén Itzá and 1,800 before Teotihuacán in Mexico City. It was inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of people – Olmecs, Zapotecs, and Mixtecs. The terraces, dams, canals, and pyramids were literally carved out of the mountain. Monte Albán flourished with a population of up to 25,000 from 500 B.C. to 850 A.D.when, for reasons unknown, its abandonment began.



Monte Albán was the center of a highly organized, priest dominated society. They controlled at least 200 other settlements. The pictures show where the priest stood for the ceremony. There is a hidden underground tunnel in which he “disappeared” and seemingly miraculously reappeared on one of the other buildings. This was a show of power.


The court for the ball game was made as in the diagram. The narrow section is where the players play against each other. The wide spots is the goal. The balls were made of rubber and they would strike the balls with their hips.
The carved stone monuments are called “Danzantes” (dancers). The idea that they depicted dancers has been generally discredited. They are now believed to represent tortured, sacrificed war prisioners, some identified by name. However, it does not explain why the glyphs depict naked warriors, ejaculation, childbirth, dwarfism, the sick, genitally mutilated and more with contorted body positions.


Some of the artifacts from the site



Note the elongated skulls. They would wrap the baby’s head to force it to this shape. The shape denoted power and prestige.

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