Home » Mexico Destinations » Oaxaca » Oaxaca Attractions » Monte Alban
Being visible from anywhere in the central part of the Valley of Oaxaca, the impressive ruins of Monte Albán ("mohn-teh ahl-bahn") . 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". The monumental center of Monte Albán is the Gran Plaza or Great Plaza, which measures approximately 300 meters by 200 meters, a large open space created by flattening the mountaintop. From this plaza, aligned north to south, there is a great view of the Oaxaca Valley. The site's main civic-ceremonial and elite-residential structures are located around it or in its immediate vicinity, and most of these have been explored and restored by Alfonso Caso and his colleagues. To the north and south the Main Plaza is delimited by large platforms accessible from the plaza via monumental staircases. On its eastern and western sides the plaza is similarly bounded by a number of smaller platform mounds on which stood temples and elite residences, as well as one of two ball courts known to have existed at the site. A north-south spine of mounds occupies the center of the plaza and similarly served as platforms for ceremonial structures.
Building J 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. Building J is the only building at Monte Albán not aligned with the north-south axis, the Observatory was probably aligned with the stars instead.The site is a popular tourist destination for visitors to Oaxaca.
Ball courts, especially those of the main political cities of the Late Classic Maya, were public spaces used for a variety of elite cultural events and ritual activities like musicals and festivals, and of course, the ball game. Pictorial depictions often show musicians playing at ball games. Most ball courts were I-shaped, with a long, narrow playing field flanked by, sloping, walls in the Classic and vertical or stepped walls in the Post Classic, that were plastered and brightly painted. The end zones evidently held temporary scaffolding for seating.
Monte Alban Danzantes
One characteristic of Monte Albán is the large number of carved stone monuments one encounters throughout the plaza. The earliest examples are the so-called "Danzantes" (literally, dancers), found mostly in the vicinity of Building L and which represent naked men in contorted and twisted poses, some of them genitally mutilated. The 19th century notion that they depict dancers is now largely discredited, and these monuments, dating to the earliest period of occupation at the site (Monte Albán I), clearly represent tortured, sacrificed war prisoners, some identified by name, and may depict leaders of competing centers and villages captured by Monte Albán. Over 300 Danzantes stones have been recorded to date, and some of the better preserved ones can be viewed at the site's museum.
The museum has information about the site and exhibits of artifacts found there. There are city buses; tour buses, guided tours or you may drive your own vehicle. There is parking, a cafeteria and a gift shop. The treasure of Tomb 7 found there by Alfonso Caso is on exhibit at the Museum in the Santo Domingo Comple.