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Monte Alban Archaeological Site

Monte Alban

Monte Alban is an ancient Zapotec tribe archaeological site situated 8 km (5 mi) West of Oaxaca, Oaxaca in Mexico. It was one of the first cities in Mesoamerica and at its peak it covered an area of 20 square kilometres.



Location: 8 km (5 mi) West of Oaxaca, Oaxaca  Map

Tel. (951) 516 1215

Open: 8am- 6pm daily

Entrance Fee: 30 pesos, Free on Sundays and holidays

Monte Alban




History of Monte Alban Archaeological Site

Monte Alban mapThe ancient name for Monte Alban Archaeological Site was Dani Biaa or "sacred mountain" or "sacred hill". Modern name of Montalbán was given the Spanish conquistadors after similarity in landscape with Alban Hills in Italy. Only small central portion of the settlement is uncovered. Archeologists still work on surrounding area that was inhabited mostly by regular people. Monte Alban was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site for its significant architectural and historic value for the whole World.


This site was chosen as a strategic location on a plateau (elevation: 1,900 meters/ 3,280 feet) overlooking the junction of Atoyac and Salado river valleys. Rising at a height of 300 meters above valley floor it was settled by the Zapotecs in 800 BC. Refugees came from former capital of San Jose Mogote in Etla valley. Around 500 BC the city grew large enough to undertake massive construction. A top of the mountain in the center of the city was cut to make way for a I- shaped plaza to make room for palaces, ball court, temples and other important civil and religious structures.


Zapotec capital reached a peak of its political and economic might during Classic Period (300- 750 AD) with over 25,000 inhabitants. It established trade routes with Teotihuacan (north of Mexico City) and Tikal in Guatemala. Priests followed a 365 days calendar to mark different time period of city life. Monte Alban was abandoned around 750 AD in favor of another capital of Zaachila in the Zimatlan valley. New tribe of Mixtec people settle briefly on the ruins of the abandoned city in 1300- 1400 AD. They left many ceremonial offerings in the Tomb #7.


North Platform (Monte Alban Archaeological Site)

North Platform is a large platform with several temples at the top. A beautiful view of the valley bellow opens here. You have to climb an impressive staircase to get to the top.


South Platform (Monte Alban Archaeological Site)

South Platform is situated on the South end of the I- shaped great plaza. Much of its territory is covered by a single large platform with a small pyramid at the top known simply as a Mound III. This part of the city is also accessible by a large staircase.



Monte Alban Tunnel


Ballcourt (Monte Alban Archaeological Site)

Ballcourt or Juego de Pelota was an important religious site where Zapotecs played their games. The players could only use their shoulder, elbows, knees and hips to hit the ball. The players of the losing team were sacrificed to the pagan gods. In the ancient times it was covered by red stucco, but today most of it is gone. It is situated in the Eastern side of the Central Plaza.


Palace (Monte Alban Archaeological Site)

This was probably a residential buildings of an important priest or a ruler of the city or possibly both. Archeologists discovered a tunnel (pictured left) that led from the palace to the pyramid H in the center of the Grand Plaza. It was probably used during religious ceremonies and a head of this ceremony would use this tunnel to suddenly appear in the center of the platform to awe of all residents who were present.Monte Alban Oaxaca Valley Map


Tomb #7 (Monte Alban Archaeological Site)

This tomb was constructed in the last decades of the existence of Monte Alban. It was constructed to keep the body of ruler of Mixtec people. It was uncovered by Mexican archaeologists in the early 1930s.


Building J (Monte Alban Archaeological Site)

Building J situated in the center of the plaza served probably as a astronomical observatory for ancient religious leaders.


Los Danzantes (Monte Alban Archaeological Site)

Los Danzantes is a group of religious buildings in the South- western part of the central plaza. The name is translated as "dancers".  It was given by archeologists due to Olmec carvings that were represented in various poses. In reality these were probably mutilated and killed prisoners who were captured in numerous battles that the Zapotecs carried out. These slabs are only copies. The actual reliefs are kept in the archeological and historic museum of the site.



On the map to the right you trace the movement of the Zapotec people from their previous home of San Jose Mogote in Etla valley to Monte Alban in the center of the three valleys and further south to their later capital of  Zaachila in the Zimatlan valley.



Same view of Monte Alban in the Dry and Wet seasons. Plan your trip according to a season.

Monte Alban  Monte Alban

Monte Alban  Monte Alban  Monte Alban pyramids  Monte Alban  Monte Alban pyramid  Monte Alban ball court  Monte Alban  Monte Alban








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