Zapotec Culture

The Zapotec culture flourished in southern Mesoamerica. This pre-Columbian civilization dates back at least 2500 years. Their ancient city of Monte Alban has been a treasure trove of archaeological evidence. Magnificent tombs and buildings paid homage to their building skills. The Zapotec culture also produced incredible art and fine gold jewelry.

The Zapotecs developed an early system of writing in which each symbol represents a syllable. The earliest of these writings are dated to about 500 B.C., making them a possible candidate for the first system of writing in Mesoamerica. Both of th civilizations adopted this rating system, and in the process perfected it. The main contender for the title of earliest writing system is the Olmec culture, whose symbols date back to 650 B.C..

Aztec rulers in the ancient capital of Tenochtitlan hired Zapotec artisans to create their jewelry. Moctezuma II, the great Aztec leader, was proud to show off the fine craftsmanship which the Zapotecs were known for.

The Zapotecs lived in large villages, having long since given up the nomadic lifestyle. Houses and other buildings were constructed of stone and mortar. This advanced civilization used hieroglyphics to record historical events.

The Zapotecs believed in many gods. Human sacrifice may have played a part in their rituals.

The ruling class believed in their descent from supernatural beings who lived in the clouds. Upon death, the elite would return to live with these spirits. For the commoners, ancestors had emerged from the earth, were changed from Jaguars or trees into humans.

Extent of the Zapotec civilization. Courtesy Wikipedia.
A funerary urn in the shape of a “bat god” or a jaguar, from Oaxaca, dated to AD 300 – 650. Height: 9.5 in (23 cm). Courtesy Wikipedia.