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At Monte Alban

Stelae

Enigmatic Stelae

The ruins of Monte Alban provide opportunities for reflection. (Map this!)

The cultural destruction by the Spanish has been so complete that even the original name of Monte Alban has been lost in the mists of time. Above the city of Oaxaca, in an incredible engineering feat of the time lie the ruins of Monte Alban, once populated by 25,000 – 30,000 souls. First settled in about 500 B.C. the city reached its zenith between 500-750 A.D, before being abandoned.

Temples

Temples ans palaces in the mountains.

The ruins speak of an alien Mesoamerican life, that of pyramids, of ball-courts, of enigmatic stelae. The Mexican archeologist Alfonso Caso did some of the first and most extensive research on the site and his conclusions are boldly pronounced throughout Monte Alban on tiled stone tablets. Since almost all of the information about who these people were has been destroyed by the Spanish so there will always be a sense of ambiguity and mystery about Monte Alban, unless through some incredible luck a trove of undiscovered Zapotec codices come to light. Notwithstanding that sweet dream, everyone will be free to make their own interpretations and let fly their own colored birds of fantasy.

trepan

Early surgical techniques

It was mighty hot on the day we visited Monte Alban and although we felt bad for the octogenerian guide we did not feel bad enough to cough up his exhorbitant forty dollar fee. It is a mystery how so many people lived in such a desolate place with little or no water but perhaps conditions were different when the city was founded. The easily defensible hilltop location and carvings denoting gory scenes point to a war-like society but one that practised surgery such as trepanation.

Danzantes

Dynamic Male Nudes.

Sometime between 500-1000 A.D. Monte Alban was deserted and several smaller states around the Oaxaca Valley became ascendant. The city without a name that is known today as Monte Alban faded into history until it was “discovered” centuries later so that American tourists can now marvel at it. The center did not hold.

6 Responses to “At Monte Alban”

  1. Stephen says:

    The octogenerian guide you are referring to is probably “Victor” who may be overcharging but is still a nice person to use as a guide. His English is very good, and he has some of his own ideas what Mt. Alban is all about. He also doesn’t have much good to say about those “bloody Aztecs.” We will be in Oaxaca soon and my look him up now that you have advised us that he is still on the job 😉

  2. Jerzy says:

    Adding to the mystery of Monte Alban is the fact, that the ruins, although very close to the colonial era Oaxaca, were unknown to the Spanish. Hard to imagine the Zapatecs did not know about them.

  3. Shreesh says:

    Stephen –

    Now I’m slightly regretful that I didn’t hire Victor. It just seemed like a lot of money for a few hours of work. There are some good books on Monte Alban so I feel that we have as much knowlege as a guide would have imparted to us.

    Jerzy –

    Well, the Zapotecs even forgot its name! I’m sure that it was mentioned in the extensive codices…

  4. Charlotte says:

    Really enjoying your adventures. I changed internet providers so unsubscribed for the old one and subscribed to the new. Hope that was correct, guess I will find out.

    Stay well, SF is full of hacking and coughing and other unpleasant sights and sounds. Wish I were there!

    Hola!

  5. madhuri says:

    Regarding tour guide price, it seems to be a universal thing. When i was on temple tour in Tamil Nadu, most of the historic temples has the following board at entrance:
    Admission rate: free
    Foreigners: Rs. 400

    :-)
    madhuri.

  6. Shreesh says:

    Madhuri –

    So did you get the local rate or the foreigner rate? 😉

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