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Monte Alban


Building J at Monte Alban

Building J at Monte Alban may be an astronomical observatory.

Kris Hirst


Monte Alban was the political capital of the Zapotec state


Just outside of Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico, on the top of a steep hill some 400 meters above the floor of the Oaxaca Valley.

Dates Occupied:

500 BC through AD 700

Architecture to Visit:

The center of government included a plaza complex, including twenty pyramid platforms, an observatory (Building J) and the steles known as the Danzantes, carved-stone slabs with pictures of captives.

Museum/Gift Shop:

A small museum is located on site, displaying some of the artifacts found in the excavations. Several vendors sell replicas of many of the items and other locally produced artifacts.

Recommended Reading:

Lots of good websites are out there; take a look at the sidebar above.

Excavators and Excavations:

Major investigations have been undertaken by Ignacio Bernal, Alfonso Caso and more recently by Richard Blanton, Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus.

Why You Should Go:

The site of Monte Alban was an important political capital during the Late Classic period betweem about 500 AD and 700 AD, when it had a population of about 25,000 living on the nearby ridges and hills. The center of government was in the plaza, where most of the pyramids can be seen. The structure known as Building J is worth the bus ride all in itself, arrow-head shaped and probably used as an observatory. The Danzantes are also of interest, stone carvings of captive rulers taken by the Zapotec armies.

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