Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

Mitla: One of the most important archaeological sites in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico

Marija Georgievska

Mitla is the second most important archaeological site in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico and the most important of the Zapotec culture. The site is within the modern municipality of San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

In the state of Oaxaca, Mitla is second in importance as an archeological site only to Monte Alban. Photo Credit

In the state of Oaxaca, Mitla is second in importance as an archaeological site only to Monte Alban. Photo Credit

The name Mitla is derived from the Nahuati name Mictlán, which was the place of the dead or underworld. Its Zapotec name is Lyobaa, which means “place of rest.” The name Mictlán was Hispanicized to Mitla by the Spanish.

Walls, friezes and tombs are decorated with mosaic fretwork. Photo Credit

Walls, friezes, and tombs are decorated with mosaic fretwork. Photo Credit

What makes this site unique among Mesoamerican sites is the elaborate and intricate mosaic fretwork and geometric designs that cover tombs, panels, friezes, and even entire walls.

There are six basic patterns. The individual designs are bound together in horizontal bands. Some suggest that this arrangement , which offers more than 100 different configurations is a coded language. None of the fretwork designs are repeated exactly anywhere in the complex.

Close up of some of the fretwork. Photo Credit

Close up of some of the fretwork. Photo Credit

The placement is so precise that no mortar is required. Even with modern technology, the accuracy of the Mitla mosaic’s stonecutting would be cost prohibitive. Experts believe the decoration work would have cost ten times more than the buildings they adorn.

None of the fretwork designs are repeated exactly anywhere in the complex. Photo Credit

None of the fretwork designs are repeated exactly anywhere in the complex. Photo Credit

These mosaics had deep symbolic significance. What they meant remains a mystery.

Another important part is the Church of North Group that lies at the entrance to the site. It was believed that in this group lived the lord and lady of the underworld, so the church was built here to keep the devil from escaping.

The Palace at Mitla. Photo Credit

The Palace at Mitla. Photo Credit

To the south of the Church Group is the Columns Group, whose main building is called the Palace. The main building is called the Palace or the Grand Hall of Columns.

The Columns Group and the Church Group were both fully excavated and restored by the early 1980s and are open to the public. Photo Credit

The Columns Group and the Church Group were both fully excavated and restored by the early 1980s and are open to the public. Photo Credit

The two main concerns for the Mitla site are eroding effects of wind, rain, and graffiti. The latter, which is mostly painted or etched, has been a serious problem at least since the early 20th century. To protect the ruins , shelters have been constructed over a number of the rooms of the Palace of Columns Group.

 

The fretwork here is unique in all of Mesoamerica. Photo Credit

The fretwork here is unique in all of Mesoamerica. Photo Credit

We have another story about caves:The Marble Caves in Chile: one of our planet’s most marvelous treasures

The Mitla site is very important to the modern town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla, as tourist related activities support most of the economy, but many residents here feel that neither the site or the town is promoted sufficiently by the government.