Monte Albán is a large archeological site in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

The name "Monte Albán" means "White Mountain" in the Spanish language; the Zapotec name was Danipaguache, meaning "Sacred Mountain". The Aztecs knew it as Ocelotepec, or "Jaguar Mountain".

This sacred Mesoamerican city is on an artificially flattened mountain top some 400 meters above the city of Oaxaca.


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The Gran Plaza
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Sistema M

Monte Albán was built over a period of over 2,000 years, starting about 900 BC, by the Zapotec people. The early art shows Olmec influence. The most impressive building period was during the Mesoamerican Classic era, from about 550 to 1000. About 1300 the Zapotec were driven out of the site and surrounding area when was conquered by the Mixtec people. The Mixtec made further additions to Monte Albán until they in turn were conquered by the Spanish Conquistadores in 1521, at which time Monte Albán was abandoned.

Guillermo Dupaix investigated the site in the early 19th century. J. M. García published an account of the site in 1859. A. F. Bandelier visited and published further descriptions in the 1890s. The first large-scale archaeological project of the site was done in 1902 by Leopoldo Batres. Eighteen years of more extensive excavations began in 1931 under Alfonso Caso. Despite such detailed work, much of the large site, over 80%, has never been excavated.


Monte Albán has many step-pyramids, temples, elite tombs, and a court for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. There are also free-standing sculptured stelae, and large bas-relief carved panels in some of the buildings.

The oldest carved stones at the site are the so-called "Danzantes" (literally, dancers), featuring drawings of people in contorted and twisted poses. Although the notion that they depict a dance is generally discredited now, there is still little agreement on what exactly the figures represent. Some of the original stones can be viewed in the museum at the site.

Building J (the arrowhead-shaped building shown in the top picture) has also invited much speculation, due to its unusual shape and orientation. Caso suggested it was an astrological observatory, though other theories have been offered. The building also features large carved slabs depicting upside-down heads, which Caro called "conquest slabs" depicting vanquished enemies.

The site is a popular tourist destination for visitors to Oaxaca and has a small museum. A minimum of two hours should be allocated to view the site.da:Monte Albán de:Monte Albán nl:Monte Albán pl:Monte Albán


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