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Monte Alban

Monte Albán is pre-Columbian site located is on the mountaintop at the elevation of almost 6,400 ft / 2,000 meters above sea level. For hundreds of years this city was Zapotec political and economic center until it became mostly abandoned in about 800 AD.


The Main Plaza Voice

What a view from Monte Alban! The city location was beneficial in many ways. It was easily defensible, countless terraces on the slopes below provided food for the city, infinite horizon of such a place allowed daily astronomical observations. Small group of educated men among the priests had knowledge to calculate agricultural cycles, or predict proximity of the rainy season. Within Main Plaza, two buildings served as astronomical observatories. Their location was not accidental. They were arranged so that, together with natural terrain nearby they were used to determine the equinoxes. One of the buildings has an additional unique feature, a narrow vertical tunnel inside the structure used to record the passing of the sun when at zenith.


For Zapotecs to be a dancer, soldier, stonemason, or astronomer was not just a matter of passion and talent. On the child’s birthday, parents knew the future of their newborn. Everyone’s profession was written in the calendar. To fulfill his destiny, each boy and girl received the proper education. People could not freely choose their profession. Everyone had to follow the prophecy based on the arrangement of the stars. This way a son of a farmer be a military commander for example, or vice versa.

North Platform

Palace Dancers Building P Stela 9

The ballgame court in the shape of overturned letter H has the sloping sidewalls. They were not the place for spectators. Originally covered with lime, walls had polished surface that helped the ball slide down. The game was watched from other two ends. The ball court at the corner of Main Plaza was constructed in about 100 BC.

Ballgame Court