Monte Albán

Located in Oaxaca and surrounded by pointy peaked mountains, Monte Albán rests on an impossibly flat mountain-top. It was expertly leveled by its founding settlers, either the Zapotec, or their predecessors, the Olmec.

Although the Olmec occupied the site first, it was the Zapotec who transformed Monte Albán into one of the most populated MesoAmerican cities. They constructed temples, elaborate residences, and drainage systems. From about 500 BCE to 750 CE, Monte Albán served as the cultural, political, and religious capital of the Zapotec civilization.

While there is much to explore at Monte Albán, I was particularly fascinated by the ballcourt. Here, the Zapotec would have played juego de pelota, an ancient ball game with strong ritual significance. This sport, played by various MesoAmerican cultures, pitted teams against one another with the goal of putting a rubber ball in a hoop using only their hips. This game was used to settle disputes and occasionally determined who would be sacrificed to the gods. Sometimes the winners were sacrificed, and as competitive as I am, this is one game I would be happy to lose!