Day 8, in which there was one very big tree and a lot of little stones.

Today is Fri­day, we must be head­ed for Mit­la and ‘the tree’!. Our first stop is in San­ta Maria del Tule, to see a huge, sev­er­al thou­sand year old tree. In the cen­ter of the town. Pret­ty amaz­ing. The red­woods are taller, but this honker is huge at the trunk!

arbol de tule at santa maria de tule
arbol de tule at san­ta maria de tule

Play­ing ‘name that crea­ture’ is an old game here. Sup­pos­ed­ly this is a lion head.

gnarled bole on the trunk
gnarled bole on the trunk
stats on the tule tree
stats on the tule tree

Trans­lat­ed rough­ly the inter­est­ing bits are:

Com­mon Name: Ahuehuete

Age: more than 2000 years.

Height: 42 meters

Diam­e­ter: 14.05 meters

Vol­ume: 816,829 cuibic meters

Weight: 636,107 tons

This is a much younger ver­sion of the same tree.

a not as big tule tree
a not as big tule tree

Around here, your admis­sion tick­et does­n’t not include priv­i­leges to “Los banos”, got­ta get a sep­a­rate tick­et for that. When you hand over your 2 pesos, you get a tick­et and toi­let paper! (TP not pictured)

two tickets
two tick­ets

There’s some bizarre top­i­ary in the gar­den in St. Maria, here’s a squir­rel with a nut!

two cats? try to catch a bird?
two cats? try to catch a bird?

On the hill­side across the val­ley, they are min­ing lime. Looks too sym­met­ri­cal and planned to be a mine to me. (Says Jim)


Civ­i­liza­tion around these parts is so old, you can pull over on the side of the road and look at pet­ro­glyphs that are thou­sands of years old with­out ever get­ting out of the car.

petroglyph by the highway
pet­ro­glyph by the highway

And here we are at Mit­la, one of my favorite Oax­a­can arche­o­log­i­cal sites. The set­ting is beau­ti­ful, the designs won­der­ful, and it’s a bit more to human scale than Monte Alban is.

northern building complex
north­ern build­ing complex

White boards?! Why would we need a white board? We got a per­fect­ly good piece of dirt and a twig right here! (Nico­las Gar­cia, our guide and all around hel­lu­va nice guy!)

Nico explaining the time line.
Nico explain­ing the time line.

I love the fact that ancient stonework exists side-by-side with mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy in this part of the world!

skyline at mitla
sky­line at mitla

There are just a few bits of the orig­i­nal dec­o­ra­tion still vis­i­ble. These draw­ings were done in cochineal on stucco.

remnant of the original painting
rem­nant of the orig­i­nal painting

The view between two of the build­ings, look­ing across the valley.

scenic view
scenic view

This is the large build­ing in the south­ern por­tion of the complex.

large court yard
large court yard

I love the designs here. This sec­tion of the wall shows six dif­fer­ent designs.

multiple friezes
mul­ti­ple friezes

The unre­stored por­tions of the com­pound show how rough the mate­r­i­al is. A lot of the stone was tak­en to build the church.

unrestored portion of the south compound
unre­stored por­tion of the south compound

Each frieze design is made up of thou­sands of small stones cut on the face and placed into a bed of mud or cement. 

pieces making up the design
pieces mak­ing up the design

They are doing some arche­ol­o­gy here, a pair of dis­em­bod­ied arms mea­sures the stones.

measuring each stone
mea­sur­ing each stone

A frieze with a very cool light­ning design in it.


And the local ven­dors still use the old designs

vendors at mitla
ven­dors at mitla

Lara and Jim

About the Author

Lara Harriger