Monte Albán: Reliefs on Building J--page 5 (of fifteen pages)

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Building J had tunnels inside, some with reliefs like those on the outside. These reliefs are essentially incised drawings of stylized figures with costume details, including elaborate headdresses. Because the figures have closed eyes and are upside down, it is believed that these reliefs record defeats of enemy kings. Because glyphs accompany the figures, it is thought that the reliefs, with this early form of writing, are historical in nature, recording dates and places of battles. The glyph with a stepped form indicates a mountain or town. (The glyphs record the dates in the 52-year calendar.) Andrew Coe states that "archaeologists believe many of the latter [defeated cities] refer to cities outside the Valley of Oaxaca, reaching almost as far / as the Tehuacan Valley, the Pacific Coast, and the border with Chiapas. The Zapotec state was now an empire with contacts to the rest of Mesoamerica" (209-210). (The numbers given below have no archaeological significance--they are simply the numbers from my digital card.)


Examples 940, 942, and 945; 942 is clear.


Examples 946, 954, and 948; 946 and 954 are clear.


Examples 950, 951.


Examples 955, 952, and 953.

Continue to page 6 .

Works consulted or quoted:
Andrew Coe. Archaeological Mexico. Emeryville, CA: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2001.
Michael D. Coe and Rex Koontz. Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs. Fifth Edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002.
Nelly M. Robles Garcia. Monte Albán: History, Art, Monuments. Mexico: Monclem Ediciones, 2004. [official guide]
INAH. Signage at the site.
Mary Ellen Miller. The Art of Mesoamerica: From Olmec to Aztec. Third Edition. London: Thames and Hudson, 2001.

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© 2009 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.