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Exclusion of common people in Oaxaca Valley might have been a determinant fact of Monte Alban collapse near 800 Ad, according to researcher Arthur Joyce, associated Archaeology professor at University of Colorado at Boulder, United States of America.


During the first day of activities of the 5th Monte Alban Round Table, the expert explained that elements found at Main Plaza of the Zapoteca ancient city reveal tension between elite and common people between 200 and 800 AD: instead of being a ceremonial space, where religion and community bonded, the square became a dwelling area.           

“A non-intentional result provoked by nobility excluding population from ceremonies was deterioration of loyalty to governmental institutions and leaders at Monte Alban.

“Governors, especially in Monte Alban, were worried about other prominent families of the Valley, as a possible result of competition and conflict. At Late Classic period (500-800 AD), aristocracy had extended and divided, empowering other political centers”, expressed Joyce.

Arthur Joyce mentioned at the meeting organized by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) that archaeological information suggests that by the end of the aforementioned period, Monte Alban elite maintained an increasing isolation, while people began emigrating, which collapsed governmental institutions. Upper class residences were abandoned or modified.

“Scale, accessibility and symbolism of the Main Plaza indicate it was built as a space that thousands of persons of different social status and communities could use at public ceremonies. Multitudes moved around the sacred space, materializing symbols regarding ancestors, deities and cosmic creation”.

Near 300 AD a dynasty ascended to power and the ceremonial precinct was appropriated again as a symbol of political, religious and economic power by hereditary aristocracy.

Evidence from the end of Late Pre Classic period (100 BC-200 AD) reveals a political disruption in the city. Stelae were dismantled and a defensive wall was constructed around most vulnerable slopes; at the Main Plaza nearly 30 arrowheads were recovered, that point out that force was used to watch the area.

“When social and political relations that linked elites from Oaxaca Valley crumbled down among power fights, population might have retired their support. On the contrary, Monte Alban initial success was related to people’s participation in rituals, community civil work and military actions that brought political unit”, concluded the scholar.

The 5th Monte Alban Round Table takes place in Oaxaca, Oaxaca from September 2nd to 5th 2009, with participation of nearly 30 national and international specialists. Academic activities and information is available in the Internet page www.inah.gob.mx/mesamontealban.