On a man-made ridge above the provincial capital Oaxaca you will find the remains of the most important centre of the Zapotec culture.
Monte Albán went through two decisive phases, the first between 200 BC and 200 AD in the Proto-Classical period and the classical period between the 3rd and 10th centuries AD.
Of particular archaeological importance is Temple J, which probably served as an observatory, the Danzantes complex as well as numerous graves of high-ranking personalities and the treasures found in them.
Also the oldest inscription of Mesoamerica, calendar signs carved in stone, whose period of origin is dated to about 600 B.C., were found in Monte Albán.
Around the 9th century the decline of the centre began. Instead Mitla emerged as a fusion of Zapotec and Mixtec culture and the new capital of the Valley of Oaxaca.
Since 1987, Monte Albán, together with the historical centre of Oaxaca, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The treasures from tomb 7, including gold jewellery and a skull covered with mosaic stones, can not be admired on site, but in the “Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca” in Oaxaca.
The so-called “Danzantes”, a series of stone reliefs whose motifs were wrongly described as dancers are located in the southwest of the site. In fact, the stelae probably represent tortured (war) prisoners. The originals replaced on site by copies are in the museum of the plant.
Four kilometres north of Monte Albán, on the top of Monte Cerro del Bonete, the largest Zapotec ball court has been discovered. It belongs to the archaeological site Atzompa, which has only been open to the public since September 2012.
Atzompa probably served as the residence of the elites from Monte Albán between 650 and 850 AD and was not part of its settlement centre. It will be part of an extended Monte Albán tour. Paths have already been created for visitors and the most important pyramid bases have been protected.