Posts Tagged ‘archaelogical site’

Almost a year after our first visit to the newly opened Atzompa archaeological site, yesterday, we returned.  The beautiful paved road up from Santa María Atzompa (elevation 1,580 meters) now brings one to a parking lot right across from the entrance, making for less of a haul up the hill for those less mobile or challenged by the altitude — at the top it is almost 300 meters above the village below — even we were huffing and puffing.


Atzompa was part of Monte Alban and one of its largest settlements.  At the top of the stairs (above), is the largest (45 meters by 22 meters) of the 6 ball courts found among the Monte Alban communities.

Ball court

Investigations of the Atzompa site first began in 1940 by Jorge R. Acosta, who was part of the Monte Alban Project.  However, in 2007 the National Institute of Anthropology and History began formal explorations using a team of architects, archeologists, topographers, and restorers.


Though the path is currently difficult to see, make sure to go around to the left of the building above to see the north quadrant.  Informational placards in Spanish and English are now in place throughout the site and most of the facts in this post are taken from them, but, of course, I neglected to take a photo of the placard for the building below!


Residents from the land cooperatives in the surrounding communities have been hired to do much of the field and lab work.  Not a bad setting to work…


One can, in the words of The Who, “see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles…”

Green valley with mountain range in distanceExcept for the birds, insects, lizards, and workers, we had this spectacular setting to ourselves — I think we only saw 3 other visitors the entire time we were there.  Perhaps when the second entrance on the Monte Alban side opens, it will attract more attention.  In the meantime, the peace and tranquility are a gift in these chaotic times.

Oaxaca–The Year After has more from yesterday’s visit.

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At long last, and with not much fanfare, the Atzompa archeological site is open to the public!

Panoramic view of Atzompa archaeological site.

The winding road, cut into the side of the mountain, has been visible for a while and we could see platforms when we were up at Monte Alban (about 5 miles away) two weeks ago.

Winding road on side of mountain.

It’s a bit of a hike up a newly paved road from the small (temporary?) parking area under the pine trees, but we eventually reached the site and the ball court.

Ball court with mountains in background

It is small, but the setting is spectacular.

Ruins in foreground with mountains in back.

One can see a recreation of the 1,000+ year old Zapotec kiln that was uncovered 8 feet down — offering proof of continuity to today’s renown potters of Santa María Atzompa.

Kiln with shade covering.

Then there is the vegetation….  The architecture of native trees adds to aura of this ancient site.

Tree in front of side of pyramid

And, the white flowers of one of the trees has attracted the tiniest hummingbirds I’ve ever seen.

Hummingbird sitting on branch

Nopal cactus, in full fruit (tunas) at this time of year, dot the landscape.

Nopal cactus loaded with red fruit "tunas"

Archaeologists and their crews continue their work excavating and restoring, and much is blocked from amateur exploration, including the 1,100-year-old burial chamber.  Darn!

Workers restoring a building

The only “facilities” available at the site, thus far, are bathrooms (which were a trip, but I won’t go into it).  Lest you worry about comida for the workers, it arrived by motorcycle and was waiting in insulated boxes in the parking area.

6 motorcycles with soft insulated boxes.

Aside from those working at the site, we had the place to ourselves… no tour groups and no vendors.  We were left alone to listen to the birds and insects and imagine a highly developed culture, alive with the ancestors of the energetic, creative, and spiritual people we are privileged to live among.

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Fifteen hundred years may have passed since Monte Albán was in full bloom as the center of Zapotec civilization.  However, the flowering continues…

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Monte Albán on an early October morning.

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… there you are.

Green grass, stone structure, blue sky with wispy clouds

Monte Albán on a picture perfect autumn morning.

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Yesterday’s trip to Zaachila began with the archaeological site, located right above the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Natividad.

View of Church of Nuestra Señora de la Natividad from Zaachila archaeological site

Zaachila, named for the pre-Columbian Zapotec king, Zaachila Yoo, was the last Zapotec capital, following the demise of Monte Alban.  It was eventually conquered by the Mixtecs, who were still there when the Spanish conquistadors appeared on the scene.

Entrance to Zaachila archaeological site

First excavated by archaeologist Roberto Gallegos in 1962, only a small fraction of the site has been uncovered.  However, visitors have access to two small tombs in mound A.

Facade of Tomb 2

Tomb 2 is the much less decorative of the two, though it apparently once held jewelry and other valuable offerings, many, of which can be found in the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Mexico City.

Interior of Tomb 2

According to the brochure available for purchase (10 pesos), Tomb 1 was constructed in the epoch III-A (250-650 CE) and reused in the Post-classic era (950-1521 CE).

Facade of Tomb 1

Seven figures adorn the walls of Tomb 1.

Figure of Yahui on far wall of Tomb 1

Figure of Búho (owl) on left wall of Tomb 1

Figure of Bújo (owl) on right wall of Tomb 1.

Figure on right wall of Tomb 1

Figure of Bezelao (a supreme god) on left wall of Tomb 1

Figures of 5 Flower and 9 Flower are also depicted but I couldn’t lean far enough over the barrier to photograph them.

The site recently reopened after being closed for several months.  Work continues…

Piles of stones under trees

The site is open Monday through Sunday from 8 AM to 6 PM.  A small museum collects the 31 peso admission fee, displays photos of many of artifacts removed from the site and on display in Mexico City, reproduction of parts of the Codex Zouche-Nuttall (housed in the British Museum), and photographs from other archaeological sites in Oaxaca.

For more information on the Mixtec Group Codices, take a look at the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies website.

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