Zaachila, Oaxaca

Zaachila is a typical Mexican countryside village located only 25 kilometers from Oaxaca city in the Central Valleys. Many tourists visit the church dedicated to Virgin of Nativity, the market of Zaachila and, of course, the typical ice cream stands around the main square. There, the visitor can enjoy several flavors of this creamy dessert; there are Prickly pear called tuna, nuts which are grown in this part of the valley, burned milk called Leche Quemada, and lemon, as the most known flavors. The ice cream is elaborated in steel cylinders that are put into half barrels added with ice and a lot of salt. The flavored soft drink is poured into the cylinder. Then, the ice cream makers gyrate energetically the cylinders and the soft drink rapidly become in ice cream.

The origin of the name: Zaachila.

The name of this village is after Zapotec ruler Zaachila I who governed at the end of the XIV century and at the beginnings of the XV century.

The archaeological site of Zaachila.

The archaeological site of Zaachila reached its highest peak between 1200 and 1521 A.D. It was a city state, and one of the only remaining Mixtec-Zapotec capitals still inhabited when Spaniards arrived. Zaachila was ruled by a privileged class of noble men and landholders.
The most striking of all the important architectural compounds was The Palace. The Palace held Tombs 1 and 2. The Palace must have been the home of Lord Nine Flower, given that he was buried here.

Treasures of Zaachila:

The archaeologist Roberto Gallegos explored these tombs of the Late Post-classic period, which was the final stage of the pre-Hispanic era. This explorer and his team found very valuable items at these tombs and, unfortunately, they took them to Mexico city where they are at nowadays. They found human burials with offerings decorated with gold, silver, copper, and carved human bones, a carved wooden mask with mosaics of turquoise.

They also found a tripod plate, stood by three Jaguar claws. It has a painting of a butterfly which symbolizes the figure of the sun and the Jaguar represents the night. So, the plate represents the duality of day and night.

A ceramic polychrome cup with a hummingbird at the edge, it was believed that warriors who died in battle reincarnated in hummingbirds.

There is a ceramic glass with a warrior holding a shield and weapon. A disc of gold, 25 cms. in the diameter, was also found at this tomb. An amazing pectoral of gold with a god which is a pre-Hispanic calendar; it has 18 beads representing 18 months of 20 days each, and 5 more additional days.

Another item is a glass with the god Mictalntecutli, the god of the death. The figure has a Dominion cane in his right hand and a knife for sacrifice in the left one.

There is a disc of turquoise and jade divided in 8 sections by pink stones. It also has the four cardinal points represented by four warriors.

Tomb 1 and 2

The tombs 1 and 2 are opened to visitors. The explanation of tomb 1 results incredible.
At the entrance of the tomb there are two owls sculpted on the stone walls, the birds of the night that foretell the death. Then, in the chamber, there are two Mictlantecutli figures pointing towards the hades, the long pilgrimage to the hades. At the end of the tomb, near where the body was found, there is a figure of a man with a turtle shell that has many interpretations: maybe he was the executioner of Lord Nine flower and Lord Five flower. Maybe he is a protector who is singing or praying. Maybe a witch called Nahual who has the ability to change to an animal figure. There were many offerings in the niches of the tomb. It was believed that the way the dead was wearing in the tomb, he was going to be received in the other life, so the dead wore rich clothing and accessories.

Tomb 3 and 4

The tombs 3 and 4 were explored by archaeologist Jorge Acosta in 1971 but, unfortunately, they were already plundered. In fact, there is a chapel at the place where the tombs used to be, the chapel of San Sebastian. Many of the stones of the pyramids were used as blocks in churches construction. Due to the growing of the village, many houses were built very close and over the archaeological sites, and almost everything was lost or blundered. It is not a secret that many local people has gathered figures and plates from the sites. There could be seen a carved stone as a block of the church of the village.

Special thanks to Joel Perez Facio, guardian of INAH, who provided useful information of this important site.

Travel Guide Exploring Oaxaca

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