LISS.398A TECHNOLOGY, ENVIRONMENT and HUMAN ADAPTATION:
PART II PRE-EUROPEAN MESOAMERICA



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MONTE ALBAN III (300-750 A.D)

This phase at Monte Albán is most conveniently discussed in terms of two Valley wide sub-phases -- IIIA(300-500 A.D.) and IIIB(500-750 A.D.) During the entire phase, the population of Monte Albán grows steadily, though somewhat more sharply during IIIB, reaching a peak of some 25,000 people during IIIB.

Most of the presently visible remains at Monte Albán date from IIIB.

During this phase construction at Monte Albán is essentially completed with the full enclosure of the Main Plaza. The entire hill, as well as neighboring hills such as Azompa and El Gallo is occupied with the slopes configured into terraces largely occupied by household units. Limited agriculture was probably also undertaken on the terraces.

The entire site was apparently subdivided into barrios focusing around a center of public architecture consisting of elites residences and and public areas for ritual activities all evidenced by largely unexcavated mounds. In addition to the Main Plaza, ten such barrios have been identified on the slopes of Monte Albán and four others on neighboring hills. This spatial organization may be viewed as an ealboration of that already in evidence (as three barrios) during Early I. The unique size and architectural elaboration of the Main Plaza and and the fact that there are 14 structures surrounding it suggest that it may have played a role in integrating the activity of the barrios.

A network of roads ( Fig. MA.4,) covered the site but apparently bypassed the Main Plaza suggesting that this area served neither as a market, nor as the site of other types of frequent gatherings of large numbers of people. Indeed, there is no evidence that any location at Monte Albán might have been a market. Nor is there firm evidence of manufacturing activity duriing this period. This is in sharp contrast with Teotihuacán where commercial activity was a significant feature during this time.

This phase coincicdes with the emergence of Teotihuacán in the Valley of México as a pan-Mesoamerican power and evidence of interaction between Monte Albán and Teotihuacán is visible in the public architecture and and ceramic remains at Monte Albán.

RESIDENTIAL ARCHITECTURE

Both open and semi-closed household units are observed in IIIA with considerable variation in the form of the latter. Little variation is apparent among households in burials or artifacts.

A closed household unit consisting of rooms opening onto and usually enclosing a square central patio is typical of IIIB (See Fig. MA.5.)

The emergence of the closed household unit completes a sequence of gradual change in the complexity and spatial organization of these units beginning with the open unit (See Fig. MA.2.) in Early I and continuing through the semi-closed units of Late I and II.

The closed household units of this phase exhibit significantly more standardization in size and morphology than do those of earlier phases. Three types, based on patio size, were distinguished by Winter ( Winter '74) Blanton’s analysis ( Blanton, ‘78:96-100 , based on a substantially larger sample, suggest a more complex typology with at least six types. Winter’s types will however serve to illustrate the diversity of residential architecture.

Type 1
The smallest cluster type consisting of a patio ( 12 m2) enclosed by faced stones partially or fully enclosed by rooms (about 2 X 4 m); walls on adobe and possibly of waddle-and-daub in some instances; stone slab-lined burials under room floors; evidence of storage facilities lacking(See Fig. MA.2.).

Type 2
The mid-size type consisting of a small patio enclosed by a bench forming a larger outer patio (15 - 35 m2) fully enclosed by rooms with adobe walls on a stone foundation; single known slab-lined burial under patio(See Fig. MA.4.).

Type 3
Large walled compound forming the outside wall and enclosing rooms surrounding a patio (100-150 m2); tombs beneath rooms entered by stairway from patio; sometimes situated on a platform and approached by a stairway(See Fig. MA.5.).

This difference in type of residential structure provides some evidence for the existence of a social class structure characteristic of state level societies. However, in view of the variety of residential types, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the nature of this structure from this data alone. Ethnohistorical data from the conquest period suggest that there were basically two socail strata in Zapotec society with less important sub-divisions within each.

PUBLIC ARCHITECTURE

The most significant example of public architecture attributable to IIIA is the South Platform whose corners are faced with carved stones interpreted as commerating a “state visit” to Monte Albán by dignitaries from Teotihuacán

Also providing evidence for interaction with Teotihuacán during IIIA, is a deposit of Teotihuacán-style ceramics found in conjunction with Monte Albán IIIA ceramics in a location to the southwest of the Véritice Geodésico on the North Platform. ( López ,‘94)

Aside from structures already mentioned (including the ball court and which assumed the form whose ruins (stabalized and/or reconstructed) are presently visible during IIIB, two sructures which may have been elite residences: the Patio Hundido in the North Platform and El Placio (Structure S) at the south end of the east side of the Main Plaza also date from this sub-phase.

TOMBS

To the north of the North Platform among a series of riges and small hills appear the remains of several tombs for elite persons, dating to IIIB, including: Tomb 7, Tomb 103, Tomb 104 and Tomb 105. Each of these consists of an enclosed tomb, frequently excavated into bedrock and decorated with mural paintings, opening onto the surface of a paito complex containing a surface structure -- either a temple of a small palace.

Material specific to this period is drawn from: Marcus ‘83a, Marcus ‘83b, López ‘94.


Colorado School of Mines
Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies
Dr. Joseph D. Sneed
jsneed@mines.edu
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