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Published: September 29th 2008
Today we all got up bright and early, even though it was Domingo (Sunday) and headed off to our first ruins. My Mexican mother stuffed me with food once again, fresh fruit, pan (sweet bread), cereal (frosted flakes this time), mango juice and a fresh Oaxacan cheese and avocado tortilla. How does one explain in Spanish that a big breakfast to me is yogurt and granola?
I met up with Christina and Chelsea at Chedraoiu (the local version of Canadian Superstore) and walked the 30 minutes to our meeting spot, just south of Santa Domingo. Being early (that’s right, early!) we went to find coffee at Mexico’s Starbucks, The Italian Coffee Company. The group congregated and chatted about cell phone conquests and mishaps from the previous day and then loaded onto the coach (a white Mercedes, nothing but the best) driven by our fabulously knowledgeable guide Iban. We meandered up a winding road, past radish sellers, pop stands and rickshaws (I thought I had escaped those by leaving India) to the top of Monte Alban.
At just under 2000 meters above sea level, Monte Alban was a Zapotec stronghold as well as it’s cultural and political centre for over
1000 years. Founded about 500 BC, the top of the mountain was levelled off (a process that took an estimated 300 years) and built on with stunning ceremonial and residential buildings. All the buildings in the main plaza are build to face North, South, East or West, with the exception of one which is at a 45% angle towards the North-West and is considered to be the observatory. Many important discoveries have been made at Monte Alban, many of which have been as a result of researching the tombs found underneath the residences. The Zapotec people believed that death was a form of rejuvenation and so buried their dead under their houses with gifts for their future life.
By the end of 750 AD, with their power declining, Monte Alban began to empty of its inhabitants, and by 1000 AD it was all but abandoned. As with other cultures around the world, the exact reason for abandonment is not know, though theories about lack of water and supplies or continued social unrest are common. After four hours of sun and packed full of facts, with a great need to write down all that I had just learnt, I entered
the site’s gift shop.
Yes, I hear all those groans and see those rolling eyes. I know who you are and you won’t be getting any of the lovely post cards I bought. I also found an amazing book, an English translation of the 1552 Aztec codex of herbal medicines. Some of you may be yawning but for me it was like finding a gummy worm in a pile of fried grasshoppers. Did you know that, according to the Aztec’s, if you broke your head you should do it during the summer months? This is because you needed plants covered in summer dew to smear on it, along with green-stone, pearls, crystal, tlacalhuatzin (a plant), wormy earth, burnt frogs and the white of an egg. Is it me or is this cure worse then having a sore head for awhile?
With that thought I will leave you in order to finish reading about how to reduce boils and a ‘rumbling in the abdomen’.
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