The earliest organized inhabitants of this area were the Olmecs who settled some of the rich valleys nearby. The Olmecs settled and then faded from an organized nation into scattered settlements. In 500 B.C., the Zapotecs arrived and possibly merged with the Olmecs who had remained. The decendents of both tribes leveled the top of the mountain creating a man-made mesa. On top of this mesa they created a city-palace that has come to be one of Mexico’s most traveled destinations.
The palace complex is quite massive and I could not fit it into one shot; instead, I combined 3 photos to make this wide angle shot (above). I learned later that if you set your camera on manual mode and keep the same shutter speed , ISO level and f stop, all of the photos will be the color and brightness. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind next time.
The Zapotecs ruled this area and built up the site at Monte Alban until the 10th Century when they too went into decline. The Mixtec people then settled this area and considered the mountain palace to be sacred ground. While they did not inhabit this area, they burried their dead here and there remains some well preserved graves and artifacts from this civilization.
The ruins are only about 5km from Oaxaca and are accessable by bus or taxi. As we had our own truck, we made announcement at our hostel that we would be going to these ruins on Christmas Eve and invited anyone who wanted to come along. A Dutch man named Edwin who was staying in our dorm agreed to come along. In the photo below, myself, Jeff and Edwin discuss which site to see next.
As with every other Meso-American ruin I have seen, this one has a ball court. I am not sure the rules of this game versus the Mayan ball game with its tall hoops; I didn’t see any hoops at the Zapotec court. The ball court - as with most of the other ruins at this site – is in amazing condition. It is hard to believe that these buildings are nearly 1,500 – 2,000 years old. I’ve seen the pyramids in Egypt and Iraq and these buildings are quite impressive as well.
From the top of one of the pyramids I caught a photo of Jeff as we surveyed the mesa-top palace grounds. I wonder how many laborers it took to remove the hilltop in order to make this small city.
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