So far, in my visits to ancient american cities, Machu Picchu wins for the sheer scenic beauty, Choquequirao wins for its yet un-rediscovered mysteries (also the place where I proposed to Sarah, on day two of a fourteen day hike to Machu Picchu), but Monte Albán wins for the size of the complex and scope of the engineering.
A brief history and then on to the pictures.
Monte Albán is the legacy of the advanced Zapotec culture that dominated this part of Mexico well over one thousand years ago. Founded around 500 BC, most of the city was abandoned by 950 AD, though the Mixtecs later used it as a magnificent burial site. The main structures were cleared and restored in the 1930s.
The mountain top was flattened to build the site and there is no natural water supply, instead it was hauled up from the surrounding valleys and stored in urns. It is speculated that the Zapotec’s were not insane to build here, instead wanted to show their mastery over nature.
By waging war on potential rivals, the new city soon came to dominate an area that extended well beyond the main valley. By 200 AD, the population had expanded to such a degree that the Zapotecs endeavoured to level the Monte Albán spur completely to create more space, essentially forming a massive plateau.
The engineering project boggles the mind. Without the aid of the wheel or beasts of burden, millions of tons of earth were shifted to build a vast, flat terrace on which the Zapotecs constructed colossal pyramids, astronomical observatories and palaces.
‘Nuf said. Time for pictures.