Tazumal is a pre-Columbian Maya archeological site in Chalchuapa, El Salvador. Tazumal is an architectural complex within the larger area of the ancient Mesoamerican city of Chalchuapa, in western El Salvador; the Tazumal group is located in the southern portion of the Chalchuapa archaeological zone. Archaeologist Stanley Boggs restored the Tazumal complex during the 1940s and 1950s. Archaeological investigations indicate that Tazumal was inhabited from the Classic period through to the Postclassic and that the site had links as far afield as central Mexico, the northern Yucatán Peninsula and lower Central America. Metal artifacts from the complex date to the 8th century AD and are among the earliest metal artifacts reported from Mesoamerica. Tazumal is situated within the municipality of Chalchuapa in the department of Santa Ana, within the Río Paz drainage basin; the ruins are at an altitude of 720 metres above mean sea level. It is about 120 kilometres from the contemporary Maya city of Kaminaljuyu.
Tazumal is 4 kilometres southwest of the small Late Classic site of Alumulunga. Chalchuapa was inhabited since the Preclassic period. Around the boundary between the end of the Late Preclassic and the start of the Early Classic, construction at Tazumal was interrupted by the eruption of the Ilopango volcano, some 75 kilometres to the east of the city; this eruption caused a hiatus in construction activity at Tazumal that may have lasted several generations. Activity resumed during the Early to Middle Classic although the city never recovered to its Preclassic levels of activity; the Tazumal complex came closest to matching the enormous structures of the Preclassic period. The principal structures of the Tazumal group date to the Classic period of Mesoamerican chronology. By the Late Classic Tazumal was an important ceremonial complex. Construction activity is evident from the Early Classic through to the Middle Classic. At this time Tazumal had important links with the Maya city of Kaminaljuyu in the Valley of Guatemala, which acted to extend the influence of the powerful central Mexican city of Teotihuacan into the Pacific coastal areas of Guatemala and El Salvador.
During the Late Classic Tazumal had links with Copán in Honduras, as evidenced by architecture and ceramics at Tazumal. The ceramic sequence at Tazumal continues uninterrupted from the Classic period through to AD 1200. A number of Early Classic features indicate links with Chichen Itza, in the northern Yucatán Peninsula, or with Tula in central Mexico; the population of Tazumal coexisted with the Nahua-speaking Pipils from the Classic through to the Early Postclassic until at least AD 1200. The Pipil influence may have been due to trade with neighbouring Pipil populations rather than a direct Pipil presence, judging by the level of evidence. After 1200, Tazumal was abandoned, with occupation shifting westwards towards the centre of what is now the modern town of Chalchuapa. Chalchuapa was still occupied at the time of the Spanish conquest, at which time its inhabitants were Poqomam Maya; the Pokomam are believed to have been late settlers in Chalchuapa, postdating the Pipil influence that lasted until 1200.
Between 1942 and 1944 Stanley Boggs excavated and restored structures B1-1 and B1-2. This restoration included coating the structures with modern cement, which Boggs judged to be sufficiently similar to their original appearance as to justify its use. Boggs' final report was not made available and no further archaeological investigations were carried out until the early 21st century. In 1947 Tazumal was declared a National Historic Monument; until 2001, the Salvadoran 100 colón note carried an illustration of the ruins of Tazumal. In 2004, the side of Structure B1-2 collapsed and the Salvadoran Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y el Arte initiated operations to excavate and stabilise the ruins. During the first decade of the 21st century, two simultaneous archaeological projects were initiated, the investigation of Structure B1-2 by CONCULTURA and the Proyecto Arqueológico de El Salvador by the Japanese University of Nagoya. All the buildings in the Tazumal complex face west. Tazumal is believed to possess a Mesoamerican ballcourt.
One of the mounds is badly damaged. Green obsidian artefacts found at Tazumal indicate links with central Mexico. Structure B1-1 dominates the complex; the pyramid underwent various phases of construction through the Classic and Early Postclassic periods. Structure B1-1 was built upon a basal platform, called the Great Platform by Boggs, that measures 73 by 87 metres; the pyramid was surveyed in 2003–2004. A 30 metres long platform runs north-south along the western facade of the pyramid and a platform of similar length runs east-west along the north side of the structure; these two side platforms were built as separate structures but were incorporated into the Great Platform. The remains of a platform measuring 4 by 3 metres were found in the correct position for such a platform on the east side. A test pit sunk into the presumed area of the southern platform uncovered an offering containing a cylindrical ceramic vessel with a polychrome bowl placed upon it like a lid. Within
Monte Albán is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site in the Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán Municipality in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. The site is located on a low mountainous range rising above the plain in the central section of the Valley of Oaxaca where the latter's northern Etla, eastern Tlacolula, southern Zimatlán & Ocotlán branches meet; the present-day state capital Oaxaca City is located 9 km east of Monte Albán. The excavated civic-ceremonial center of the Monte Albán site is situated atop an artificially-leveled ridge, which with an elevation of about 1,940 m above mean sea level rises some 400 m from the valley floor, in an defensible location. In addition to the monumental core, the site is characterized by several hundred artificial terraces, a dozen clusters of mounded architecture covering the entire ridgeline and surrounding flanks; the archaeological ruins on the nearby Atzompa and El Gallo hills to the north are traditionally considered to be an integral part of the ancient city as well.
Besides being one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica, Monte Albán's importance stems from its role as the pre-eminent Zapotec socio-political and economic center for close to a thousand years. Founded toward the end of the Middle Formative period at around 500 BC, by the Terminal Formative Monte Albán had become the capital of a large-scale expansionist polity that dominated much of the Oaxacan highlands and interacted with other Mesoamerican regional states such as Teotihuacan to the north; the city had lost its political pre-eminence by the end of the Late Classic and soon thereafter was abandoned. Small-scale reoccupation, opportunistic reutilization of earlier structures and tombs, ritual visitations marked the archaeological history of the site into the Colonial period; the etymology of the site's present-day name is unclear, tentative suggestions regarding its origin range from a presumed corruption of a native Zapotec name to a colonial-era reference to a Spanish soldier by the name Montalbán or to the Alban Hills of Italy.
The ancient Zapotec name of the city is not known, as abandonment occurred centuries before the writing of the earliest available ethnohistorical sources. Being visible from anywhere in the central part of the Valley of Oaxaca, the impressive ruins of Monte Albán attracted visitors and explorers throughout the colonial and modern eras. Among others, Guillermo Dupaix investigated the site in the early 19th century CE, J. M. García published a description of the site in 1859, A. F. Bandelier visited and published further descriptions in the 1890s. A first intensive archaeological exploration of the site was conducted in 1902 by Leopoldo Batres General Inspector of Monuments for the Mexican government under Porfirio Diaz, it was however only in 1931 that large-scale scientific excavations were undertaken under the direction of Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso. In 1933, Eulalia Guzmán assisted with the excavation of Tomb 7. Over the following eighteen years Caso and his colleagues Ignacio Bernal and Jorge Acosta excavated large sections within the monumental core of the site, much of what is visible today in areas open to the public was reconstructed at that time.
Besides resulting in the excavation of a large number of residential and civic-ceremonial structures and hundreds of tombs and burials, one lasting achievement of the project by Caso and his colleagues was the establishment of a ceramic chronology for the period between the site's founding in ca. 500 BCE to end of the Postclassic period in CE 1521. The investigation of the periods preceding Monte Albán's founding was a major focus of the Prehistory and Human Ecology Project started by Kent Flannery of the University of Michigan in the late 1960s. Over the following two decades this project documented the development of socio-political complexity in the valley from the earliest Archaic period to the Rosario phase preceding Monte Albán, thus setting the stage for an understanding of the latter's founding and developmental trajectory. In this context, among the major accomplishments of Flannery's work in Oaxaca are his extensive excavations at the important formative center of San José Mogote in the Etla branch of the valley, a project co-directed with Joyce Marcus of the University of Michigan.
A further important step in the understanding of the history of occupation of the Monte Albán site was reached with the Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the Valley of Oaxaca Project begun by Richard Blanton and several colleagues in the early 1970s. It is only with their intensive survey and mapping of the entire site that the real extension and size of Monte Albán beyond the limited area explored by Caso became known. Subsequent seasons of the same project under the direction of Blanton, Gary Feinman, Steve Kowalewski, Linda Nicholas, others extended the survey coverage to the entire valley, producing an invaluable amount of data on the region's changing settlement patterns from the earliest times to the arrival of the Spanish in CE 1521; as indicated by Blanton's survey of the site, the Monte Albán hills appear to have been uninhabited prior to 500 BCE. At that time, San José Mogote was the major population center in the valley and head of a chiefdom that controlled much of the northern Etla branch.
As many as three or four other smaller chiefly centers controlled other sub-regions of the valley, including Tilcajete in the southern Valle Grande branch and Yegüih in the Tlacolula arm to the east. Competition and warfare seem to have characterized the R
Cholula (Mesoamerican site)
Cholula was an important city of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, dating back to at least the 2nd century BCE, with settlement as a village going back at least some thousand years earlier. The site of Cholula served as a trading outpost, its immense pyramid is the largest such structure in the Americas, the largest pyramid structure by volume in the world. Cholula is located in the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley of the central Mexican highlands, it is surrounded to the west by the snow-covered peaks Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, Malinche to the north. The summer rainy season and the melted snow in winter provide a great environment for irrigation agriculture. There is a confluence of several perennial streams with the Atoyac River that creates a wetland to the north and east of the urban center; this has resulted in abundant and excellent agriculture during the colonial period, which led to Cholula being known as the richest agricultural region in central Mexico. Maize is the major crop cultivated but they harvested maguey and cochineal for dye.
The soil is rich in clay, which made brick-making an important part of their economy. Textiles and elaborate decorative capes were popular. Cholula’s strategical location in the center of the Mexican highlands gives it a prime place as a trade outpost. Here, trade routes connected the Gulf coast, the Valley of Mexico, Tehuacan Valley, La Mixteca Baja through Izucar de Matamoros. From there, trade routes went to the Pacific coast, where the longer Pacific Coast communication and trade route existed; because of its location, Cholula served as the link center where primary trade routes and alliance corridors linked Post-Classic groups of Tolteca-Chichimeca kingdoms with southern Mesoamerica. Textiles were of extreme importance for Cholula’s economy. During the Postclassic period they were a common unit of exchange. Textiles were manufactured for local consumption and traded extensively by different merchants that frequented the city. Textile production accounts are provided by archaeological sources.
Spanish writings from Colonial times have noted their excellence in dying techniques and ability to dye wool threads in diverse colors to produce a variety of textiles. Some of the materials they used were cotton, imported from the Gulf Coast or Southern Puebla, maguey, rabbit fur, tree silk and human hair that were all locally found. Artifacts such as spindle whorls found at different Cholula site loci provide evidence for the extensive production of textiles in the site; these are rare from the Formative and the Classic periods but become more prevalent in the Postclassic. Only unbaked-clay whorls may have been used during the earlier periods but these are not preserved in the archaeological record; the high concentration of spindle whorls recovered from Cholula in comparison to other Mesoamerican sites attests to the important role they played in their economy. Cholula grew from a small village to a regional center between CE 600 and 700 ce. During this period, Cholula was a major center contemporaneous with Teotihuacan and seems to have avoided, at least that city's fate of violent destruction at the end of the Mesoamerican Classic period.
The earliest occupation dates back to the Early Formative period. In the 1970s, Mountjoy discovered a waterlogged deposit dating to the latte Middle Formative period near the ancient lake shore; the earliest construction evidence at Cholula dates to the Late Formative period. Initial stages of the Great Pyramid date to the Terminal Formative Period and show stylistic resemblance to early Teotihuacan. Estimates suggest that during the Formative period the site extended for about 2 square kilometers, with a population of five to ten thousand; the Classical period is known for the construction of the Great Pyramid. At least stages 3 and 10 were built during this period and many other mounds of the urban zone, like the Cerro Cocoyo, Edificio Rojo, San Miguelito and the Cerro Guadalupe, were constructed at this point in time; the central ceremonial precinct included the Great Pyramid, a big plaza to the west, the Cerro Cocoyo as the west most pyramid of the plaza group. Classical period Cholula most covered around 5 square kilometers, had an estimated population of fifteen to twenty thousand individuals.
During the Early Postclassic there might have been an ethnic change, suggested by the influx of Gulf Coast motifs and by the burial at the pyramid of an individual with Maya-style cranial deformation and inlaid teeth. Cholula reached its maximum population during the Postclassic period, it had a population of thirty to fifty thousand. During this period, ethnic changes divide the historical sequence into two phases: the Tlachihualtepetl and Cholollan phases; the Tlachihualtepetl phase is named after the city of the Great Pyramid as it was recorded in the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca ethnohistoric source. During this phase according to the ethnohistoric accounts, Cholula was taken over by the Gulf Coast group known as the Olmec-Xicallanca, who made it their capital. From there, they controlled the high plateau of Tlaxcala. Under this group, the potters of Cholula began to develop the fine polychrome wares that were to become the most popular vessels in all of ancient Mexico. In CE 1200, ethnic Tolteca-Chichimeca conquered Cholula.
At this point, the Patio of the Altars was destroyed and the ceremonial center was moved to the present zócalo of Cholula. Polycrome pottery from this phase used distinctive design configurations but was derived from the earl
The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples, noted for its logosyllabic script—the most sophisticated and developed writing system in pre-Columbian Americas—as well as for its art, mathematics and astronomical system. The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador; this region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain. The Archaic period, prior to 2000 BC, saw the first developments in agriculture and the earliest villages; the Preclassic period saw the establishment of the first complex societies in the Maya region, the cultivation of the staple crops of the Maya diet, including maize, beans and chili peppers. The first Maya cities developed around 750 BC, by 500 BC these cities possessed monumental architecture, including large temples with elaborate stucco façades.
Hieroglyphic writing was being used in the Maya region by the 3rd century BC. In the Late Preclassic a number of large cities developed in the Petén Basin, the city of Kaminaljuyu rose to prominence in the Guatemalan Highlands. Beginning around 250 AD, the Classic period is defined as when the Maya were raising sculpted monuments with Long Count dates; this period saw the Maya civilization develop a large number of city-states linked by a complex trade network. In the Maya Lowlands two great rivals, the cities of Tikal and Calakmul, became powerful; the Classic period saw the intrusive intervention of the central Mexican city of Teotihuacan in Maya dynastic politics. In the 9th century, there was a widespread political collapse in the central Maya region, resulting in internecine warfare, the abandonment of cities, a northward shift of population; the Postclassic period saw the rise of Chichen Itza in the north, the expansion of the aggressive Kʼicheʼ kingdom in the Guatemalan Highlands. In the 16th century, the Spanish Empire colonized the Mesoamerican region, a lengthy series of campaigns saw the fall of Nojpetén, the last Maya city, in 1697.
Classic period rule was centred on the concept of the "divine king", who acted as a mediator between mortals and the supernatural realm. Kingship was patrilineal, power would pass to the eldest son. A prospective king was expected to be a successful war leader. Maya politics was dominated by a closed system of patronage, although the exact political make-up of a kingdom varied from city-state to city-state. By the Late Classic, the aristocracy had increased, resulting in the corresponding reduction in the exclusive power of the divine king; the Maya civilization developed sophisticated artforms, the Maya created art using both perishable and non-perishable materials, including wood, obsidian, sculpted stone monuments and finely painted murals. Maya cities tended to expand haphazardly, the city centre would be occupied by ceremonial and administrative complexes, surrounded by an irregular sprawl of residential districts. Different parts of a city would be linked by causeways; the principal architecture of the city consisted of palaces, pyramid-temples, ceremonial ballcourts, structures aligned for astronomical observation.
The Maya elite were literate, developed a complex system of hieroglyphic writing, the most advanced in the pre-Columbian Americas. The Maya recorded their history and ritual knowledge in screenfold books, of which only three uncontested examples remain, the rest having been destroyed by the Spanish. There are a great many examples of Maya text found on stelae and ceramics; the Maya developed a complex series of interlocking ritual calendars, employed mathematics that included one of the earliest instances of the explicit zero in the world. As a part of their religion, the Maya practised human sacrifice; the Maya civilization developed within the Mesoamerican cultural area, which covers a region that spreads from northern Mexico southwards into Central America. Mesoamerica was one of six cradles of civilization worldwide; the Mesoamerican area gave rise to a series of cultural developments that included complex societies, cities, monumental architecture and calendrical systems. The set of traits shared by Mesoamerican cultures included astronomical knowledge and human sacrifice, a cosmovision that viewed the world as divided into four divisions aligned with the cardinal directions, each with different attributes, a three-way division of the world into the celestial realm, the earth, the underworld.
By 6000 BC, the early inhabitants of Mesoamerica were experimenting with the domestication of plants, a process that led to the establishment of sedentary agricultural societies. The diverse climate allowed for wide variation in available crops, but all regions of Mesoamerica cultivated the base crops of maize and squashes. All Mesoamerican cultures used Stone Age technology. Mesoamerica lacked draft animals, did not use the wheel, possessed few domesticated animals. Mesoamericans viewed the world as hostile and governed by unpredictable deities; the ritual Mesoamerican ballgame was played. Mesoamerica is linguistically diverse, with most languages falling within a small number of language families—the major families are Mayan, Mixe–Zoquean and Uto-Aztecan.
Chinkultic, sometimes Chincultic, is a moderate-size archeological ruin in the state of Chiapas, some 56 km from Comitán, the nearest city. It is part of the Lagunas de Montebello National Park; this pre-Columbian city belongs to the ancient Maya civilization. The city flourished from about the 3rd through the 9th century. Most of the sculptures were produced in the last 300 years of this era, with hieroglyphic inscriptions dating from 591 to 897. Post-Classic-Era occupation of the site continued until the 13th century, after which it was abandoned; the site has some some 200 smaller buildings, most in undisturbed ruin. Chinkultic has carved stone stelae depicting the site's rulers; the site contains a court for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame, which a marker tells us was dedicated on 21 May 591. The first published account of the site was made by Edward Seler in the late 19th century. A detailed description of the site was made by Enrique Juan Palacios in 1926; the first archeological investigations of the site were conducted in 1966 under the direction of Stephan F. de Borhegyi of the Public Museum of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Starting in 1970, some further excavations and restorations of a few buildings was conducted by Mexican government archeologists, who dredged some artifacts from the site's cenote or natural well known as Agua Azul. The cenote gives the site its Maya language name; the site is open for tourism visits, although it is not one of the more visited Maya sites. Chinkultic, Una ciudad Maya, by Roberto Gallegos Ruiz
Calixtlahuaca is a Postclassic period Mesoamerican archaeological site, located near the present-day city of Toluca in the State of Mexico. Known as "Matlatzinco", this urban settlement was a powerful capital whose kings controlled a large territory in the Toluca Valley. Archaeologist José García Payón excavated the monumental architecture at Calixtlahuaca in the 1930s and restored a number of temples and other buildings. Most notable are Structure 3, a circular temple dedicated to the Aztec wind god Ehecatl, Structure 17, a large royal “palace”; the architecture and stone sculpture at the site is similar to that of other Middle to Late Postclassic period Aztec sites in central Mexico. In 1930, the site had an extension of 144 hectares, today it only has 116. Between 1988 and 1998, some projects have been implemented to preserve and protect the site contents; these projects included drainage requirements, leveling of some areas, site regulations, protection against urban growth. In 1998, archeologist Jorge Villanueva Villalpando restored the south wall of the eastern facade of Building III, damaged by constant and strong storms.
In 2002 Dr. Michael E. Smith initiated a new research project at Calixtlahuaca; this project was sponsored by Arizona State University and the National Science Foundation, fieldwork began in 2006 with a full-coverage intensive survey of the site. In 2007 a series of houses and terraces were excavated, revealing the form of life of the inhabitants of Calixtlahuaca for the first time, it is believed that the initial settlers of this region were nomadic natives who used to visit seasonally. Lázaro Manuel Muñoz, stated that the Matlatzincas, or their nomad ancestors, visited this site at least 640 BCE and that Otomi hunter-gatherer groups were present 3,000 years ago at the now dried up lake, fed by melting water from Nevado de Toluca. Subsequently, the Matlatzinca arrived and founded a small settlement which became under eventual Toltec cultural influence, it is believed that the Matlatzinca ethnic group belonged to the Nahua family that had invaded the territory. The town of Tecaxic was conquered by the mexicas and became dominated by the Aztecs at about 1476 AD. during the reign of Tlatoani Axayacatl.
As the city was destroyed, the Aztecs built a new city, called Calixtlahuaca. In 1510, the Matlatzinca tried to end the Aztec tutelage and Moctezuma II ordered the city destroyed and the inhabitants fled west towards Michoacán; the city was repopulated by various groups, which concentrated on agriculture and animal husbandry. Among the municipalities formed were Tollocan, Ocuilan and Tepemaxalco, the latter being the most important; the Matlatzinca lands were considered a corn producing region, this may have been the main reason for the continued invasions from the epiclassical period, first by the Toltecs and subsequently by Chālcah in the 12th century. The region was divided into three Altepetls, two of which were prepared to remain independent and associate with the Purépechas of Michoacán, but a third Altepetl, wanted an association with the Aztecs; this division prompted the Matlatzinca migration to other regions, such as Tiripitío, Huetamo and Undameo, among others. Axayacatl, the Tenochtitlan Huey Tlatoani fought against Cuextapalin, a Mazatleca general, whose slingshot stuck Axayacatl in the leg, tried to take him prisoner unsuccessfully.
The Aztecs returned with their Tollocan allies and fought against Matlatzinca in 1474, taking 11,070 prisoners to be sacrificed in Tenochtitlan, thus preventing further uprisings in the region, as well as resettling Nahua families to Calixtlahuaca. From 1482 to 1484, there was another attempted Matlatzinca rebellion, but Tizoc destroyed the Calixtlahuaca temples, marking his victory on a stone; the last rebellion attempt occurred in 1510, the Aztec Tlatoani Montezuma II, ordered the destruction of the area, which led to the emigration of its inhabitants to Michoacán. As a result of some of the investigations performed, the following occupation periods have been interpreted and established: Preclassical Period Small clay heads type A, B, C, D & F, as well as vertical walls tied with mud as part of the constructive system of terraces in the middle of the Tenismo hill, where some housing units were located. Classical Period Ceramic belonging to the Teotihuacán third classic period, first stage of building III, damaged during the 1475 earthquake.
Epiclassical period Toltec influence with the increased construction of terraces on slopes and some buildings. Postclassical Period Distinguished by a Matlatzinca near hegemony, limited by the Aztec influence; this archaeological site is located at about 2,500 meters, the Cerro Tenismo summit is at 2,975 meter above sea level. At top of the cerro is a “Stone” water spring, called Pinalinchini. Main Structures: Located within the urban zone of the town Calixtlahuaca, yet to be explored by INAH. Quetzalcoatl Temple dedicated to Ehécatl. Mesoamerican round buildings, are related Ehécatl; the circle is a perfect geometric figure, has no beginning or end, therefore infinite, as the gods. It is a circular building.
Mitla is the second most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, the most important of the Zapotec culture. The site is located 44 km from the city of Oaxaca. in the upper end of the Tlacolula Valley, one of the three that form the Central Valleys Region of the state. The archeological site is within the modern municipality of San Pablo Villa de Mitla. While Monte Albán was most important as the political center, Mitla was the main religious center; the name Mitla is derived from the Nahuatl name Mictlán, the place of the dead or underworld. Its Zapotec name is Lyobaa, which means “place of rest.” The name Mictlán was Hispanicized to Mitla by the Spanish. However, what makes Mitla unique among Mesoamerican sites is the elaborate and intricate mosaic fretwork and geometric designs that cover tombs, panels and entire walls; these mosaics are made with small, finely cut and polished stone pieces which have been fitted together without the use of mortar. No other site in Mexico has this.
Mitla is one of many well-preserved archeological sites of the Oaxaca Valley, where the dry climate has conserved sites as old as 10,000 years. This valley was settled by the Zapotecs who over the centuries developed a hierarchical society governed by kings and nobles. While the valley was isolated, the Zapotecs did have contacts with other Mesoamerican peoples. By the time the Spanish arrived, the Zapotec state had a population of over 500,000, sophisticated construction techniques, a writing system, two calendar systems and agriculture that included the growing of maize, beans and chili peppers, using irrigation and terraces in the mountains to grow food for a urban population. Mitla itself was inhabited at least since the Classic Period and from as early as 900 BCE, it began as a fortified village on the outer edge of the valley and became the main religious center for the area. The Mixtecs took control of the area around 1000 CE, although the area remained populated by the Zapotec; the city reached its height and largest size between 750 and 1521, with both Zapotec and Mixtec influences in its architecture during that time.
Mitla is one of the pre-Columbian sites that represent the Mesoamerican belief that death was the most consequential part of life after birth. It was built as a gateway between the world of the dead. Mitla was still occupied and functioning as the main religious center when the Spanish arrived in the 1520s; the high priest, called the Uija-tào, resided at Mitla, the Spanish likened him to the pope. Nobles buried at Mitla were destined to become “cloud people” who would intercede on behalf of the population below. At that time the urban center covered an area of 1 to 2 square kilometres with suburban areas surrounding it. In the rural areas, intensive agriculture was practiced over an area of more than 20 square kilometres to feed the city. During the early colonial period, some of the best descriptions of the site come from the soldiers and missionaries who arrived first in the valley. One of the first to write formally about Mitla was Friar Toribio de Benavente Motolina in the mid 16th century.
He states that the name meant “hell.” As the site held great political and religious significance for the area, most of the buildings suffered destruction and sacking, with a few buildings spared. Some of the rooms of the site were inhabited by the Spanish clergy; this destruction was ordered by Oaxacan Archbishop Albuquerque in 1553. The remains were used as building materials for churches, including the Church of San Pablo, which sits on top of part of the ruins; the north side of the Cathedral of Oaxaca has design features from Mitla to symbolize the new religious order. In the state of Oaxaca, Mitla is second in importance as an archeological site only to Monte Alban. At the beginning of the 20th century, the government of Porfirio Díaz chose Mitla to be one of the emblematic symbols of pre-Hispanic Mexico for Centennial celebrations of Mexico’s Independence. Alfonso Caso, the archaeologist who excavated Monte Albán did work at Mitla in the 1920s and 1930s. Mitla has been the site of further excavations since the 1980s with important work done on the North Group as well as the colonial church around the start of the 20th century.
For the bicentennial celebrations in 2010, INAH has been intensifying efforts to conserve the ancient ruins. Instead of being a group of pyramids on a hill, as at Monte Albán, Mitla is a group of constructions built on the valley floor, it lacks the wide and far vistas of Monte Alban; the architecture is geared more for the comfort of the residents than for magnificence. The construction of Mitla as a ceremonial center began in 850, the city was still being expanded when the Spaniards arrived and destroyed it; the oldest group of buildings has been dated to between 450 and 700 CE and shows architectural features similar to those found at the earlier Monte Alban. Mitla is one of the few sites; the site represents the most developed architecture of the Zapotecs and is the product of the syncretism of Mixtec and Zapotec design features which reached its height in 1200. Such syncretism can be seen in the Catholic churches built over the foundations of destroyed temples in this area, such as the San Pedro Church located in the North Group and the Calvario Chapel, located in the Adobe Group.
The construction of the stone walls appears to have been the same for all groups: a core of mud and stone covered with plaster or well-cut trachyte rock. Some of the large stones, such as those used as columns and lintels, weigh as much as 18 tons. Today the archeological consists of five groups of buildings with a fence of cactus plants surroun