Also still to be seen today are Los Danzantes, over stone slabs carved between — B. Building J , interpreted by some scholars as an astronomical observatory , is a very odd structure indeed, with no right angles on the exterior building—its shape may have been intended to represent an arrowpoint—and a maze of narrow tunnels in the interior.
Recent studies include bioarchaeological analysis of skeletal materials, as well as an emphasis on the collapse of Monte Alban and the Late Classic reorganization of the Oaxaca Valley into independent city-states. Today the site awes visitors, with its enormous rectangular plaza with pyramid platforms on the east and west sides. Massive pyramid structures mark the north and south sides of the plaza, and the mysterious Building J lies near its center. Oaxaca and its neighbors in Prehispanic times: Population movements from the perspective of dental morphological traits.
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Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports State collapse and household resilience in the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 23 4 Feinman G, and Nicholas LM. In: Faulseit RK, editor. One of the most well-studied archaeological sites in the Americas, Monte Alban was the capital of the Zapotec culture from B.
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The Zapotecs were maize farmers, and made distinctive pottery vessels; they traded with other civilizations in Mesoamerica including Teotihuacan and the Mixtec culture , and perhaps the classic period Maya civilization. They had a market system , for the distribution of goods into the cities, and like many Mesoamerican civilizations, built ball courts for playing ritual games with rubber balls.
The Zapotecs built their new capital city in a strange place, probably partly as a defensive move resulting from unrest in the valley. The location in the valley of Oaxaca is on the top of a tall mountain far above and in the middle of three populous valley arms.
Monte Alban was far from the nearest water, 4 kilometers 2. Chances are that Monte Alban's residential population was not permanently located here.
The reason the founders of San Jose moved their city to the top of the hill may have included defense, but perhaps also a bit of public relations—its structures can be seen in many places from the valley arms. Expansionist trade relationships included Teotihuacan, where people born in the Oaxaca valley took up residence in a neighborhood, one of several ethnic barrios in that city.
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Zapotec cultural influences have been noted in Early Classic Puebla sites east of modern-day Mexico City and as far as the gulf coast state of Veracruz, although direct evidence for Oaxacan people living in those locations has not as yet been identified. The power centralization at Monte Alban decreased during the Classic period when an influx of Mixtec populations arrived. The Zapotec were also skilled sculptors and single effigy figures, groups of figures and urns survive both in clay and more precious goods such as jade.
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Dating from this phase is a large stone-faced building shaped like an arrow head Building J which points southwest and is aligned with the Capella star. The building is covered with carved text and reliefs which indicate regional conquests, illustrated by the upside down heads of defeated kings. In addition, over underground tombs have been excavated, many with vaults and antechambers with richly painted walls, which attest to the wealth of the city.
The tombs also show signs of being regularly re-opened, illustrating the Zapotec preoccupation with ancestor worship. The site continued to be significant, though, as it was adopted by the later Mixtec as a sacred site and place of burial for their own kings. The Zapotecs did not disappear completely, however, for in the early Post-Classic period they established a new, smaller centre at Mitla, known to them as Lyobaa or 'Place of Rest' which also had many fine buildings including the celebrated Hall of the Columns. The site continued to be occupied even up to the Spanish conquest.
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Monte Alban - Capital City of the Zapotec Civilization
Become a Member. Cartwright, M. Zapotec Civilization. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Cartwright, Mark. Last modified October 28, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 28 Oct This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.
Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. We publish the digital edition of Timeless Travels , the unique magazine for lovers of history, culture, and travel. Remove Ads Advertisement. Zapotec cities show a high level of sophistication in architecture , the arts, writing and engineering projects. About the Author Mark Cartwright.