There is nothing in Oaxaca that matches the perfection, the magnificent, the power, and greatness of the archaeological site of Monte Alban. A walk through it makes the big difference; we get the sense of beauty and perfection of its buildings and squares, a sense of fascination which has provoked that this sacred place to be one of the most visited in the southeast of Mexico.
I see to my right, then to my left, the panoramic view of the valley is a senses' fulfiller; standing on the top of the northern building, feeling the wind on my face, I try to only imagine the movement at its highest peak, its civilization, its culture, its progress, and its religion.
This archeological site was the ancient Zapotec capital and one of the first cities in Mesoamerica. It was also one of the most populous cities in Mesoamerica during its peak (it had more than 25,000 inhabitants). It was founded around 500 B.C. and flourished up to around A.D. 750. Located in the center of the Valleys of Oaxaca, Monte Alban exercised political, economic, and ideological control over the other communities of the surrounding valleys and mountains. The main attractions here are: The Great Plaza, The Ball Court, System II, The Danzantes, Building J, Central Buildings G, H, and I, The Palace, The South Platform, System 7 Deer, and Tomb 7. The Great Plaza is 200 meters long by 200 meters wide. To build the Great Plaza rocky bulges were trimmed off and depressions were filled in.
The Mexican archaeologist Dr. Alfonso Caso was in charge of the first exploration and restoration of the site. Based on his architectural studies of the buildings, tombs, ceramics, and jewelry, he determined that Monte Alban's history was divided into five different periods based upon changes in social organization, population density, and trade: Monte Alban I, II, III, IV, and V. On the hillsides that surround the Main Plaza there are tombs, burials, and diverse structures identified as residences. There is a museum at the entrance to Monte Alban and just onsite there is a scale-model of Monte Alban where the visitor will be able to get a perspective of the places they will visit in the archaeological zone. Monte Alban is 10 kilometers from Oaxaca City.
There is something in Monte Alban, many call it energy, that after walking on the pyramids and plazas, a sensation of being on a front row seat to history and the past comes short; it is a little easier to understand the vision of Oaxaca people after visiting Monte Alban, one of the pride sites of Oaxaca.
The soil still keeps many secrets of this amazing civilization; after a heavy rain, the running water discovers pieces of ceramic and idols made of clay. Monte Alban is located on the top of the hill of the tiger but, the nearby hills were also part of the ancient city. So, many people have found pieces in the surroundings. In fact, on the hills in the north west of Monte Alban, there can be seen pyramid shaped mounds. Of course it is a federal offense to dig and get the pieces, which belong to the nation but, it is a true fact that great part of what Monte Alban was is still unexplored.
If the traveler wonders for a moment how these stones were carried up to the top of the hill and manually carved, the magic hand of artisans and construction workers should have made a great effort to build this ceremonial and cosmopolitan city. Its constrcution was based on a delicate architectural design, always looking for perfection. Many people have felt the sensation of embracing the clouds with just raising their arms up to sky.
If we look at the stone bricks of the pyramids, we realize the work to carve manually each single piece of the pyramid. Imagine a harder rock tool and keep pounding and pounding until it got the necessary shape to fit in the wall. What is underneath Monte Alban?, it is a good question. Some tourist guides say that there are tunnels that conect the pyramids.
There is also a museum with many carved stones, idols, ceramic, human rests, and illustrations of this spectacular site. This site is just a don't miss, a place with its own energy, a place that will provoke many sensations on the explorer, the sensation of a rich cultural past, an important piece of Mexico and Oaxaca.
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