added by archaeologs Located in the central Southern Highlands of Mexico, overlooking the valley of Oaxaca, this Zapotec capital is an immense complex of monumental construction. At the heart of the site is a huge plaza (300 by 200 metres) dominated by three central mounds. It is flanked on the east and west by temples, pyramids and platform mounds; on the northern and southern extremities are further discrete complexes of monumental building, including a ball court. Earliest occupation dates to the Middle Pre-Classic (Period I, c500-200 bc) and includes the appearance of Grey ware, of OLMEC-influenced monumental art (see Danzantes), hieroglyphs and calendar dates. Period II (c200 bc — 200 ad) is characterized by contact with Maya lowland centres and, later, by the increasing influence of Teotihuacan. In Period Illa this influence is very strong and is evidenced by Talud-Tablero architecture, Thin Orange ware and cylindrical tripod vases. By Period Illb (o450-6/700 ad) Monte Alban was at its height as an independent power, Teotihuacan influence evaporated, and the centre was rebuilt, as indicated above. Elaborate funerary urns in Grey ware make their appearance in this period. Some time between c600 and 900 (Period IV), the main plaza was abandoned (possibly in favour of Mitla and Lambityeco) and the entire centre fell into disrepair. It was totally abandoned by the Zapotee in c950 although it continued to be used for burials. During the 14th century (Period V), Monte Alban was partially reoccupied by the Mixtec. Monte Alban was long interpreted as a ceremonial centre, and although there is much religious and civic architecture, a genuine remoteness in terms of physical accessibility and no obvious natural water supply, recent work has convincingly challenged this interpretation. The survey by Richard Blanton suggests that the centre was part of a much larger urban conglomeration. Hundreds of house platforms, a series of dams, and defensive walls have been identified, as well as common burials and large amounts of everyday cultural debris. The site has also been interpreted as an administrative seat governing a confederacy of small states located in the valley. Population, at its peak, may have been as high as 50,000.
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983