Monte Alban – was Harry Potter here?

Lola and Ms Pacifica went on a day tour.Surprising – but true.

Everyone spoke Spanish and so we had to concentrate and listen but we think got the gist. First up was the archeological site of Monte Alban on the outskirts of Oaxaca.  Monte Alban was a huge city and religious site and construction started in 500 BC and it was occupied until 850AD – when it was abandoned. It is the source of much of what is known of the origins of the indigenous Zapotec people who are still living this region. It is on the top of a hill with a huge grass “lawn” suggesting that they took the top of the hill to create it (without the benefit of bobcats.) The site consists of housing foundations, a guest house various alters and temples, a ball court, a sunken amphitheatre, agricultural terraces and some sacrificial sites- they liked to sacrifice children; those aged 6-12 years old were the most delicious! It was however a sophisticated city with a language, calendar, observatories and astronomically aligned buildings, dance, pottery and art. ( Well as sophisticated as you can be when you are a cannibal culture!)

What remains are the bases, but the buildings and temples which are largely gone but the structure, alignment and outlooks are all impressive. The city was deserted prior to the arrival the Spanish conquistadors and much of it was sacked and covered in soil and trees.  I.e Nothing to see here!

The higher you live – the more important you are. You still buried your deceased relatives inside the house in the central courtyard though. Sounds aromatic!
The sunken ball court is an H shape – was this an early form of Quidditch?
The boss stood here! On the north platform with the remains of huge circular columns.

After the grandeur of Monte Alban we went to a wood carving and painting place. It was way better than expected, and we bought a few presents (for ourselves) and –  as an afterthought –  also some gifts!  Lola was the last out – the bus almost went without her. Those dolphins are a bugger to wrap!

You can relax  – nobody is getting the blue dolphins for Christmas. The purple armadillo however….. could be gracing your mantle piece in the near future!

Then we headed to the open- air convent. Well it is open-air now, and also it as built with openings along both sides to help the indigenous people feel less enclosed (trapped) and dark. The turrets are medieval as the workers used to  turn up each evening and demolish what they had built during the day and so the Dominicans gave up on ‘Plan A’ and built feudal towers so they could keep an eye on proceedings. It did once have lightweight roof which is long gone. Clearly the conversion was a bit half-hearted.

Castle turrets on a church! Needs must.
The crest above the little doorway represents the three rival missionary  forces: Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian religious orders.  (jesuits must have been on the outer)
The Al-fresco Church. With very good indoor outdoor flow.

Then after a buffet lunch (Lola doesn’t DO buffet), the heavens opened as it is rainy season here but no, we were not heading home but to the of home black pottery. Confusingly the lady that is responsible for changing the pottery industry from boring grey to upmarket black was called Mrs Pink. In español this can cause a bit of translation confusion. (Where the hell is the pink coming from?) The secret – in case you want to try this at home is to wipe a crystal over the completed grey pottery and voila – black. Some black pottery was also purchased – and then we were allowed to go home to unpack and admire our purchases and compare prices… HOW MUCH did you pay for that! Oh… $4NZ… Ok.

Not a bad day out.





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