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Zapotec State Capital at Monte Alban

Monte Alban became the capital of the mysterious Zapotec civilization during the Classic Period and at its peak (400 AD), it was one of the largest cities in the southern Mexican highlands. It is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History starting around 100 – 200 AD. The population climaxed around 15,000 people. It was at this time when the state was at its most prosperous, characterized by massive structures built, as well as expansion through political alliances and trade.

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“The west side platform at the Monte Alban pyramid complex.”

The expansion of the Zapotec influence that started centuries before grew steadily during the early Classic Period, which reached the northern Tehuacan Valley in the Puebla region to the southern coast of the Pacific. Forty stone slabs carved with place names that were conquered by the Zapotecs were found in Building J on Monte Alban’s Main Plaza. While Zapotec-style ceramics were found in settlements beyond the Oaxaca Valley—proof of how wide the influence of Monte Alban was at that time.

The interaction and influences were not a one-way street as the distant central Mexican city of Teotihuacan also influenced the Zapotecs (probably through political alliance). Teotihuacan’s influence on Monte Alban could be seen from the remnants of the talud-tablero style of architecture, I-shaped ball court, distinct funerary paintings, and more sophisticated pottery design that was mixed with the Zapotec style of gray ware ceramics.

Picture By Nsaum75 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Werner, Michael S. Concise Encyclopedia of Mexico. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001
Joyce, Arthur A., ed. Polity and Ecology in Formative Period Coastal Oaxaca. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2013
Kuiper, Kathleen. Pre-Columbian America: Empires of the New World. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in Association with Rosen Educational Services, 2010
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