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Monte Alban

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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High above the city of Oaxaca, the ruins of Monte Alban are the second largest ceremonial site in Mesoamerica, exceeded in size only by Teotihuacan. The first known buildings were constructed around 1000 BC but most of these are now buried beneath later Zapotec structures. While the Zapotec occupation of the site dates from 100 BC, most of the existing structures date from 300-900 AD when Monte Alban had become the principal ceremonial site of the Zapotec empire. The temple complex was abandoned as a functioning ceremonial center during the 10th century though it continued to be used as a burial place by the Mixtecs. Orthodox archaeological theory is unable to explain why this particular site was chosen and used. Upon a steep plateau, with no source of water and never used for habitation or military purposes, Monte Alban was laboriously constructed with massive blocks of stone carried from far away. How are we to explain this immense human endeavor? Perhaps the ancient name of the site, Sahandevui, meaning, ‘at the foot of heaven’ is a mythological explanation.

Built sometime between 100 BC and 200 AD, Mound J is a sophisticated astronomical observatory. Positioned at an angle of 45 degrees relative to the main axis of Monte Alban, Mound J has celestial alignments with the Southern Cross, Alpha and Beta Centauri, the rising position of Capella, and the setting position of Alnilam, the center star of Orion’s Belt. Elaborate and still undeciphered hieroglyphs at Monte Alban are among the most ancient writings in all of Mesoamerica. Equally mysterious are the strange rock carvings known as danzantes, which depict human figures with Negroid facial features. Similar to carvings found at Olmec sites in other parts of Mexico, these decidedly non-Mexican figures and the hieroglyphic writings seem to indicate the possibility of contact and influence by cultures far distant from the western hemisphere.

Photo: Mound J, Monte Alban

Sacred Sites Information on Monte Alban.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Other expert and press reviews

“Oaxaca and the Archaeological Site of Monte Albán”

'Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topog… Read more...

Written by press. UNESCO

“Monte Alban”

Large Pre-Columbian site above the archaeologically rich plain of the valley Oaxaca thought to be one of the earliest Mesoamerican cities, founded around 500BC. A flattened ridge 200 metres by 300 metres built up by terraces on all sides into which the… Read more...

Written by  Roy Adelwood. More on Monte Alban

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