Monte Alban, Oaxaca – City in the clouds

Everybody knows the Aztecs and the Maya. But it’s less known that there were several other advanced cultures before Christoph Columbus’ arrival. The antic city Monte Alban for instance was founded around 500 BC by the Olmecs. Later the Maya gained some influence. But only the Zapotecs accomplished the architectural masterly performance and led the city to reach its peak between 250 and 750 AD. The “people of the clouds”, how they called themselves, levelled a mountain and filled depressions to build the city. The buildings of the urban and religious centre that are visible today come from them. Afterwards the Zapotecs left Monte Alban and settled elsewhere. The Mixtecs used from 800 on the decaying town to bury their dead, richly equipped with gold.

Monte Alban is spectacularly situated on a mountain high above Oaxaca with a splendid view to the surrounding peaks. It is not as big as Teotihuacán, but the usual pyramids can be found here as well. This site radiates friendliness and atmosphere, and we really love this spot. There are some special qualities like stone tablets with unidentified hieroglyphs or nude dancers whose meaning is still unclear.

A contemporary witness of the Zapotec era stands in the village of Santa Maria del Tule. The tree is more than 2000 years old, has a girth of 58 m and is one of the world’s largest trees. The cypress is located in the church graveyard that can be accessed for 5 Peso pp. The entrance fee is used to preserve the tree. El Arból del Tule is 14 m in diameter, is more than 42 m high and weighs over 636 (metric) tons – a real giant.

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