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date: 22 November 2019

Monte Albánlocked

  • John Paddock
  •  and Trent Barnes


Site in Mexico, in the Valley of Oaxaca. It was an important Pre-Columbian Zapotec city, later occupied by Mixtec. At the convergence of the Valley of Oaxaca’s three arms, on a small range of hills (c. 600 m), Monte Albán was founded by peoples from neighbouring villages c. 600 bc as a ceremonial centre. The site had probably long been sacred. By the time of Monte Albán’s founding, the Zapotecs had established long-distance trading contacts with Olmec centres in the Gulf Coast and had developed a calendrical system for recording dates and events on stone.

The ancient city grew by stages but apparently not at first with a long-term plan, except that a grand work of art was clearly intended. An enormous plaza, measuring 400 m (north–south) by 250 m (east–west), was laid out, and calendrical inscriptions were incorporated into a wall. As problems in construction and settlement arose, remedies were improvised, and the hilltops of the range were gradually modified as the urban centre grew. While major public buildings, monuments, and élite residences were built around the hilltop plaza, ...

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