Day 5, in which Jim visits Monte Alban

Today, the ‘tour’ was sched­uled to go up to Monte Alban, a pre-columbian arche­o­log­i­cal site just west of Oax­a­ca. My love­ly bride has seen it once, that was enough for her, so the tour depart­ed slight­ly down on troop strength.

Common BLossoming tree on Monte Alban
Com­mon Blos­som­ing tree on Monte Alban

It was a beau­ti­ful day, some cloud cov­er so it did­n’t get too hot, but enough blue sky to make it inter­est­ing. These trees are all over Monte Alban, and the sto­ry is that they are the gen­e­sis of the name that the spainiards gave to the place (monte alban- white moun­tain). This one is near the vis­i­tors cen­ter and museum.

part of our tour group discusses the site
part of our tour group dis­cuss­es the site

This was one of our first stops, at an exca­vat­ed res­i­dence, com­plete with bur­ial tombs. We had a pret­ty long and involved dis­cus­sion here of the soci­etal forces and reflec­tions around hav­ing all you ances­tors buried in your back­yard, for all intents and pur­pos­es. This was not a mobile soci­ety, obvi­ous­ly. No one wants some­one else’s rel­a­tives buried in the back yard, after all!

The view of the northern portion of the top of the mountain
The view of the north­ern por­tion of the top of the mountain

Look­ing south across the norther­most sec­tion of the Monte Alban site From here we hiked south, kind of around the nw cor­ner of the exca­va­tions on the hill­top, lead­ing us to this:

Looking south across the northermost section of the Monte Alban site
Look­ing south across the norther­most sec­tion of the Monte Alban site

This is the area just to the north of the main plaza, the round­ed lump you see cen­tered in the pic­ture is the un-exca­vat­ed top of the south­ern edi­fice on the site. From here we move south, up the steps in the mid­dle of the pic­ture, to see this:

The main plaza at Monte Alban
The main plaza at Monte Alban

This is the main plaza at Monte Alban, the lit­tle black dots you see down there are peo­ple, it gives a lit­tle idea of the scale. The place is pret­ty huge! The last time we were here it was win­ter, and very brown. This is the very end of the rainy sea­son, so every­thing is nice and green.

This is one of the more sym­met­ri­cal and com­plete pyra­mids among those that have been excavated.

one of the more symmetrical and complete pyramids here
one of the more sym­met­ri­cal and com­plete pyra­mids here

This large con­struc­tion is in the NW cor­ner of the main plaza.

another large construction at Monte Alban
anoth­er large con­struc­tion at Monte Alban

These columns once stood 12 meters high, and held a roof over this walk­way, prob­a­bly so the chiefs could look down upon all the activ­i­ty below in shad­ed comfort.

A walkway, once covered
A walk­way, once covered

A sunken area in the main plaza.

A sunken portion of the main plaza
A sunken por­tion of the main plaza

These bas-relief fig­ures are in the SW cor­ner of the plaza. There is much aca­d­e­m­ic dis­cus­sion over their actu­al pur­pose, some say they are med­ical pic­tures, some say they depict pris­on­ers, but pret­ty much every­one agrees they aren’t dancers. it was the first thing that came to some­ones mind, and it stuck.

Stone carvings known as Los Danzantes
Stone carv­ings known as Los Danzantes
More Dancers
More Dancers

This is the Ball Court, where a cer­e­mo­ni­al game rem­i­nis­cent of soc­cer and hand­ball was played.

The Ball Court
The Ball Court

About the Author

Lara Harriger