Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán

Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán

Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography. The nearby city of Oaxaca, which is built on a grid pattern, is a good example of Spanish colonial town planning. The solidity and volume of the city's buildings show that they were adapted to the earthquake-prone region in which these architectural gems were constructed.

Centre historique de Oaxaca et zone archéologique de Monte Alban

Depuis plus de 1 500 ans, les Olmèques, les Zapotèques et les Mixtèques ont successivement habité le site. Les terrasses, barrages, canaux, pyramides et tertres artificiels de Monte Albán ont été littéralement sculptés dans la montagne et sont les symboles d'une topographie sacrée. Tout près, le plan en damier de la ville d'Oaxaca est un bon exemple d'urbanisme de la période coloniale espagnole. La stabilité et le volume de l'architecture qui s'est développée dans cette ville témoignent de manière exceptionnelle d'une adaptation de la construction et du style au terrain sismique sur lequel ont été bâtis ces chefs-d'œuvre architecturaux.

الوسط التاريخي في اواكساكا والمنطقة الأثرية في مونتي ألبان

منذ أكثر من 1500 عام، سكن كلّ من الأولميك والزابوتيك والميكستيك الموقع بالتتابع. فقد كانت الشرفات والسدود والقنوات والأهرام والتلال الاصطناعية في مونتي ألبان منحوتة بكل ما للكلمة من معنى في الجبل وهي رموزٌ لرسمات أماكن مقدّسة. وبالقرب منها، رسمٌ هندسي مؤلف من مربّعات منسّقة لمدينة اواكساكا يشكّل خيرَ مثال على المدينة في فترة الاستعمار الاسباني. فاستقرار وحجم الهندسة التي تطوّرت في تلك المدينة تشهد بطريقةٍ استثنائيّةٍ على تكيّف الهندسة والأسلوب على الأرض الزلزاليّة حيث تمّ انشاء هذه التحف الهندسيّة.

source: UNESCO/ERI

瓦哈卡历史中心与阿尔班山考古遗址

在1500多年的历史中,曾先后有多个民族在赫奥尔巴山居住过,他们包括奥尔梅克人、萨巴特克人和米斯泰克人。在阿尔班山考古遗址有许多梯田、水坝、运河、金字塔以及人造山,这些都是在山上开挖修建出来的,是神圣地形学的标志。在阿尔班山考古遗址附近的瓦哈卡市采用的是纵横交错的城市格局,展示了西班牙殖民时期城镇规划的一种范例。城市中的建筑结构非常坚固,说明这是为了适应当地地震多发的情况而设计建造的。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Историческая часть города Оахака и центр древней индейской культуры Монте-Альбан

Населенный в течение более 1,5 тыс. лет сменяющими друг друга народами – ольмеками, сапотеками и миштеками - комплекс Монте-Альбан, с его террасами, дамбами, каналами, пирамидами и искусственными холмами, был буквально вырезан из гор, став шедевром сакральной топографии. Расположенный поблизости город Оахака, имеющий прямоугольную планировку, представляет собой яркий пример испанского колониального градостроительства. Массивность и размеры городских зданий указывают на их приспособленность к условиям этого сейсмически опасного региона.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Centro histórico de Oaxaca y zona arqueológica de Monte Albán

Este sitio fue habitado sucesivamente por los olmecas, zapotecas y mixtecas durante quince siglos. Los terraplenes, diques, canales, pirámides y montículos artificiales de Monte Albán fueron literalmente excavados en la montaña y son símbolos de una topografía sagrada. Situada en sus cercanías, la ciudad de Oaxaca con su trazado en damero constituye una excelente muestra del urbanismo colonial español. La solidez y volumen de sus edificios, verdaderas obras de arte de la arquitectura, atestiguan que su construcción se adaptó a las características sísmicas de la región.

source: UNESCO/ERI

オアハカ歴史地区とモンテ・アルバンの古代遺跡

source: NFUAJ

Historisch centrum van Oaxaca en archeologisch gebied Monte Albán

De terrassen, dammen, kanalen, piramides en kunstmatige heuvels van de berg Monte Albán werden letterlijk uitgehouwen uit de berg. Het zijn de symbolen van een heilige plaats. Het gebied is gedurende 1.500 jaar bewoond geweest door een opeenvolging van volkeren, zoals de Olmeken, de Zapoteken en de Mixteken. Het historisch centrum van de nabijgelegen stad Oaxaca – gebouwd volgens een rasterpatroon – is een goed voorbeeld van een Spaans koloniaal stadsontwerp. De stevigheid en omvang van de gebouwen in de stad laten zien dat ze zijn aangepast aan de aardbevinggevoelige regio waarin deze architecturale juwelen zich bevinden.

Source: unesco.nl

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Archaeological Site of Monte Albán © Sacred Sites / Martin Gray
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The World Heritage property, located in the in the region known as central valleys of Oaxaca in the depression formed between the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre del Sur, is composed of two distinct cultural sites: the historic centre of Oaxaca de Juarez and the archaeological site of Monte Albán.

The city of Oaxaca de Juarez, initially named Antequera, was founded in 1529 in a small valley occupied by a group of Zapotec Indians. It is an example of sixteenth XVI century colonial city and of town planning given that it retains its trace in the form of checkerboard with square blocks and portals on all four sides of the square. To trace the Villa de Antequera, Alonso García Bravo chose a point midway between the rivers Jalatlaco, Atoyac and the Cerro del Fortin. The trace was initiated from a central plaza basis of two axes, east-west and north-south, with a slight tilt to compensate for the lighting and sunlight due to its latitude.

The centre of the city remains the centre of economic, political, social, religious and cultural activities that give dynamism to the city. It retains its iconic architecture and the buildings representative of a cultural tradition of more than four centuries of art and history. A total of 1,200 historic monuments has been inventoried and listed. The major religious monuments, the superb patrician town houses and whole streets lined with other dwellings combine to create a harmonious cityscape, and reconstitute the image of a former colonial city whose monumental aspect has been kept intact. Fine architectural quality also characterizes the 19th-century buildings in this city that was the birthplace of Benito Juarez and which, in 1872, adopted the name of Oaxaca de Juarez. Being located in a highly seismic zone, the architecture of the city of Oaxaca is characterized by thick walls and low buildings. The mestizo population keeps alive both traditions and ancestral customs.

Monte Alban is the most important archaeological site of the Valley of Oaxaca. Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography. The grand Zapotec capital flourished for thirteen centuries, from the year 500 B.C to 850 A.D. when, for reasons that have not been established, its eventual abandonment began. The archaeological site is known for its unique dimensions which exhibit the basic chronology and artistic style of the region and for the remains of magnificent temples, ball court, tombs and bas-reliefs with hieroglyphic inscriptions. The main part of the ceremonial centre which forms a 300 m esplanade running north-south with a platform at either end was constructed during the Monte Albán II (c. 300 BC-AD 100) and the Monte Albán III phases. Phase II corresponds to the urbanization of the site and the domination of the environment by the construction of terraces on the sides of the hills, and the development of a system of dams and conduits. The final phases of Monte Albán IV and V were marked by the transformation of the sacred city into a fortified town. Monte Albán represents a civilization of knowledge, traditions and artistic expressions. Excellent planning is evidenced in the position of the line buildings erected north to south, harmonized with both empty spaces and volumes. It showcases the remarkable architectural design of the site in both Mesoamerica and worldwide urbanism.

Criterion (i) Oaxaca was the first town laid out in the New Spain during the XVI century with square blocks of 100 yards per side and planned from a central square. The icons of economic, political and religious powers were built around this central place, giving the city dynamism and contributing to universal urbanism. The grid layout of the city of Oaxaca is a unique example of urban planning in New Spain in the XVI century. The ceremonial centre of Monte Alban has created a grandiose architectural landscape which represents one of a kind artistic achievement.

Criterion (ii) For more than a millennium, Monte Alban exerted considerable influence in the entire cultural area of Oaxaca. Latter-day Oaxaca is a perfect example of a 16th-century colonial town. The trace of grid layout of the city of Oaxaca was adopted in several other colonial towns. 

Criterion (iii) Monte Albán is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre in the middle zone of present-day Mexico, which was subjected to influences from the north - first from Teotihuacan, later the Aztecs - and from the south, the Maya. With its ball game court, magnificent temples, tombs and bas-reliefs with hieroglyphic inscriptions, Monte Albán bears unique testimony to the successive civilizations occupying the region during the pre-Classic and Classic periods.

Criterion (iv) Among some 200 pre-Hispanic archaeological sites inventoried in the valley of Oaxaca, the Monte Alban complex best represents the singular evolution of a region inhabited by a succession of peoples: the Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs. The City of Oaxaca, with its design as a check board and its iconic architecture, has developed over more than four centuries as evidence of the fusion of two cultures Indian and Spanish.

Integrity

The inscribed property encompasses an area of 375 ha, with a buffer zone of 121 ha. All elements to convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are within its boundaries.

The Historic Centre of Oaxaca comprises an area of 5.00 square kilometres, 247 blocks and 1200 listed monuments of civil and religious architecture and ancient customs and traditions that developed over more than four centuries that are preserved nowadays, despite the earthquakes that have been documented on several occasions and have affected its architecture.

The archaeological site of Monte Alban has been well preserved and conservation and management actions have centred on maintaining its physical integrity.

Authenticity

Despite the growth of the city towards the four cardinal points and the earthquakes that have affected the structures, the form and design and use and function of several iconic buildings has been maintained in the Historic Centre. In Monte Alban, the location and setting has been largely preserved, as well as the form and design of the ceremonial centre.

Conservation and restoration practices will need to be controlled in both component parts so that the conditions of authenticity continue to be met.

Protection and management requirements

On March 15, 1976, the Federal Government published in the Official Journal of the Federation, the decree of Historic Monuments Zone of the City of Oaxaca, subject to the conditions set by the Federal Law on Monuments and Archaeological Areas and Historic Art. The enforcement of these legal provisions corresponds to the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

In order to coordinate actions for the benefit of preserving the Historic Centre, on December 16, 1993, an agreement that provides for the creation of the “Public service office” was signed between the National Institute of Anthropology and History and the municipality of the city of Oaxaca. This joint effort allows the INAH and the municipality, within their authorized powers, to control architectural projects and proposed development in the Historic Centre.

As a result of the collaboration between INAH and the municipality of the city of Oaxaca, on December 23, 1997 the Oaxaca State Government published in the Official Journal the Partial Plan for the Conservation of Historic Centre of Oaxaca City which stipulate the land uses and purposes; the classification of buildings according to their importance; and the standards that should be the subject of all interventions in the Historic Centre. To control the urban growth in the interior of the protection polygon, links with different Federal, State and Municipal government departments have been established for the regulation of land use, so that within their sphere of competence the destruction of the area of monuments by irregular settlements can be avoided.

The Monte Alban management Plan puts special emphasis on works of social management around the legally protected area in order to defend, along with the communities, the archaeological heritage from development. The management system in place also includes provisions for the archaeological investigation, conservation and maintenance of the site.

Long Description

Three distinct cultural properties are located in the valley of Oaxaca -the historic centre of the city founded in 1529 by the Spanish, the pre-Hispanic archaeological site of Monte Albán, 4 km south-west of the town, and the village of Cuilapan, 12 km away, where the Dominicans undertook, in the mid-16th century, to build a vast monastery.

Monte Albán is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre in the middle zone of present-day Mexico, which was subjected to influences from the north - first from Teotihuacan, later the Aztecs - and from the south, the Maya. With its pelota court, magnificent temples, tombs and bas-reliefs with hieroglyphic inscriptions, Monte Albán bears unique testimony to the successive civilizations occupying the region during the pre-Classic and Classic periods. For more than a millennium, it exerted considerable influence on the whole cultural area. Latter-day Oaxaca is a perfect example of a 16th-century colonial town. Its monumental heritage is one of the richest and most coherent in the area that was known as New Spain.

Among some 200 pre-Hispanic archaeological sites inventoried in the valley of Oaxaca, the Monte Albán complex best represents the singular evolution of a region inhabited by a succession of peoples: the Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs. The zone to the west of Oaxaca includes three principal ensembles: Atzompa, El Gallo and Monte Albán. The latter, built on a 500 m elevation overlooking the valley, gave its name to a remarkable civilization which was probably the first urban civilization in the Americas. Olmec cultural influences from Monte Albán I phase can be found in the 140 engraved stone slabs of the monument Los Danzantes, and reused in several later edifices built on the side of the central esplanade.

The main part of this impressive ceremonial centre which forms a 300 m esplanade running north-south with a platform at either end was constructed during the Monte Albán II (c. 300 BC-AD 100) and the Monte Albán III phases. Phase II corresponds to the urbanization of the site and the domination of the environment by the construction of terraces on the sides of the hills, and the development of a system of dams and conduits. In 800 the town had more than 50,000 inhabitants.

The influences of the Teotihuacan culture can be felt in the superhuman, abstract aspect of a massive architectural style which used great volumes combined in a grandiose fashion with immense open spaces. However, unlike Teotihuacan, whose valley location facilitated its layout, Monte Albán was literally carved out from a solid mountain, in various stages spanning 1,500 years. Man-made terraces and esplanades thus replaced the natural unevenness of the site with a whole new sacred topography of pyramids, and artificial knolls and mounds. The ensemble began to decline around 800, when the Mixtecs, descending from the mountains, threatened the Zapotecs living in the valley. The ultimate phases of Monte Albán IV and V were marked by the transformation of the sacred Olmec city into a fortified town.

Towards 1400, the Mixtec chiefs ordained that they be buried in the ancient tombs of the ceremonial centre. Tomb No. 7 at Monte Albán, explored in 1932, is the most famous example of this practice of reuse. It was there that the 'Treasure of Monte Albán' - a fabulous collection of 500 objects - was found. The collection is now housed in the State Museum of Oaxaca. A short time before the arrival of the conquistadores, the Aztecs took control of the valley and founded the stronghold of Huaxyacac. This place name survived, in 1521, when the Spanish erected the fort of Antequera de Oaxaca on the same site.

The modern city has fortunately retained its historic centre. A total of 1,200 historic monuments, spared by the evolution of the city, has been inventoried and listed. The major religious monuments (cathedral, Santo Domingo, San Francisco, San Agustín, San Filipo Neri, Soledad, etc.), the superb patrician town houses (home of Cortés), and whole streets lined with other dwellings combine to create a harmonious cityscape, and reconstitute the image of a former colonial city whose monumental aspect has been kept intact. Fine architectural quality also characterizes the 19th-century buildings in this city that was the birthplace of Benito Juarez and which, in 1872, adopted the name of Oaxaca de Juarez.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC