The ancient capital of the Zapotecs, Monte Alban was occupied for more than 1,200 years from 500 BCE to 750 ACE. The first urban center in Mesoamerica, Monte Alban had approximately 30,000 inhabitants and was built on top of a small cluster of mountains in the center of the Valley of Oaxaca.
The City of the Dead, Mitla is an amazing example of Zapotec architecture from the City-State period (800 to 1400 ACE). Intricate stone mosaics making geometric patterns cover the facades of the primary buildings.
Yagul is an impressive site with a ball court, palace, many tombs, and a hilltop fortress. There are bathes carved into the rock at the top of the fortress and the palace (the “Labyrinth”) is the largest in Oaxaca.
Dainzu has an incredible collection of petro glyphs depicting Zapotec ball players and shamans. These carvings depict ball players in action and transforming into jaguars.
Lambityeco was a salt producing site and also the location of the oldest temazcal (steam bath) in Oaxaca. The funeral masks of a Zapotec king and queen are admired for their realism. The kings took the femur of their father as a scepter and symbol of their power.
San Jose El Mogote
The oldest archeological site in Oaxaca, settlement began in 1400 BCE. This is a Zapotec site with evidence of the cultural influence of the Olmec civilization in the neighboring states of Veracruz and Tabasco. A small community museum is open by appointment and has an impressive jade figure and polychromatic funeral urns.
Los Reyes Etla
A small site with several unexcavated pyramids. Two large stones carved as serpent heads can be seen in the courtyard.
A hilltop site with the most important and elaborate tomb discovered in Oaxaca to date. The tomb is literally a house of the dead with a large stucco sculpture of a jaguar emerging from the mouth of an eagle, intricately carved stone door jambs, and polychrome wall murals.
The last fortress of the Zapotecs, Guiengola is located in Southern Oaxaca in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Remote and incredibly well preserved the buildings are still standing as in prehispanic times.