Monte Albán was established around 500 BCE and is recognized as one of Mexico’s first cities. The Main Plaza lies at the core of the site, featuring pyramids, stone buildings and monuments with hieroglyphic writing, and lavish tombs with painted murals. This website presents the results of the Monte Albán Geophysical Archaeology Project (MAGAP), an intensive study of the site’s Main Plaza. While other projects have investigated the structures surrounding the Main Plaza, ours is the first to undertake a systematic examination of the plaza itself.
Monte Albán is located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca (“wah-hah-kah”), a six-hour drive southeast of Mexico City. The site covers a series of hilltops lying within the broad Valley of Oaxaca. The Main Plaza was the civic-ceremonial heart of Monte Albán, consisting of a large rectangular space that was surrounded by monumental structures. Our project is utilizing geophysical prospection and digital mapping techniques to gain a deeper understanding of the Main Plaza. We want to examine the function, role, and meaning of the Main Plaza and how this may have changed over the course of the site’s history.
Monte Albán remained an important capital for over a thousand years, and its political collapse around AD 800 remains poorly understood. Studies of hieroglyphic writing from carved stone monuments at the site indicate that this was a Zapotec capital. Numbering in the hundreds of thousands today, Zapotec-speakers are the largest of more than a dozen indigenous groups from Oaxaca. Monte Albán was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is a popular tourist attraction, hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors per year.
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