Monte Alban

panoramic view of Monte Alban ruins from North Platform

view from the North Platform

another view from the North Platform

Monte Alban is an archaelogical site founded by the Zapotecs around 500 B.C.  The ruins are on an artificially leveled mountain ridge located just 6 miles outside of Oaxaca, Mexico.  Although the ruins are impressive, the location of the site is also quite dramatic.  Looking around it is easy to see why the site was chosen to build the city from just a military or defensive standpoint.

 

view of the Oaxaca Valley from Monte Alban

 

another view of the Oaxaca Valley from Monte Alban

After taking in the view of the valley, the first thing I came upon in Monte Alban was the Ball Court.  Five courts were believed to be built in Monte Alban and this one pictured below was built around 100 B.C.  It is thought that serious disagreements were settled here in the ball court.  The sloping stairs on each side were covered with a lime mixture that made them slick.  If the ball were to go up the sides it would quickly slide back to the floor of the court.  On the floor of the court the players moved the ball around through the use of their hips, elbows, and knees.

the Ball Court at Monte Alban

view of Ball Court

view of Buildings G, H and I from near the Ball Court

After looking at the Ball Court I walked through the vast Main Plaza and past Buildings G, H, I, and J to the foot of the stone stairs to the South Platform.

view of Building J and South Platform from the main plaza

stairs at South Platform of Monte Alban

Up the stairs…

South Platform stairs

And wow! Just look at those views!

Building M from the South Platform

Panoramic view from the South Platform

 

 

After pausing several moments to enjoy the stunning vista I wandered around the South Platform and then back down the stairs to see a residential area. Near the residences were a few excavated tombs.

excavated tomb

After walking a short distance back towards the Main Plaza I came across Building M and some stone carvings.  The stone carvings were called “Danzantes” or “the dancers.”  They were given this name because they were once thought to be images of men dancing.  This idea has now largely been dismissed and the prevailing theory is that the images are of rival leaders and war prisoners that had been captured.  Also, many of the images show mutilated genitals.  So, not only were these people tortured and killed, they probably had their manhood removed as a bonus.  To top that, the indignity and suffering was immortalized in stone!

"Danzantes" or "dancers" carved stones

Carved stones of dancers or "Danzantes"

A short walk further along the other side of the Main Plaza I came across another interesting feature, an obelisk or sun-dial.

Obelisk or sun-dial used to determine mid-day and solstices

After reading about the uses of the obelisk I turned and walked toward the North Platform.

The North Platform Stairs

I went up more stone stairs and onto the North Platform…

The North Platform

After the wonderful views from the North Platform I walked around looking for a hidden time portal to see if I could sneak in for a peek at Monte Alban in the time when the Zapotecs lived here.  After a promising trail roped off by crime-scene tape led me to an abandoned bathroom and not to the portal, I gave up the short-lived and ill-advised quest to sit by some trees.

sitting area at Monte Alban

Even without traveling back in time I was incredibly impressed by Monte Alban.  A stunning setting, intriguing history and magnificent views are found every time you turn your head.  If you are in Oaxaca be sure take the short ride up to see these ruins.  You can come on an organized tour or take a small bus from Oaxaca for 40 Pesos (around $3USD) round trip.  It is only 6 miles and about 20 minutes by bus.  Once you arrive there are multiple guides at the site that can be hired if you so desire.  There is also a museum, gift shop and small snack shop, and bathrooms.  Don’t miss out on the spectacular beauty of Monte Alban!

an artist's rendering of what Monte Alban probably looked like

a model of Monte Alban

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