Zapotec (American Indians Ready Reference)
The pre-Hispanic Zapotec kingdom was centered in the Valley of Oaxaca, at the mountaintop site of Monte Albán (estimated population ten thousand). From there, the Zapotec extended their rule over the entire valley and over much of the present-day Mexican state of Oaxaca. The Zapotec were participants in many general Mesoamerican cultural institutions such as the ball game, ceremonial bloodletting, human and animal sacrifice, formal religious art, a hieroglyphic writing system, and the 260-day calendar. Zapotec script is incompletely deciphered.
The origins of Zapotec society can be seen at the Valley of Oaxaca site of San José Mogote. By 1500 b.c.e., small farming hamlets were ubiquitous, but San José Mogote emerged as a unique settlement, as evidenced by a nonresidential public building and by social stratification within the community. Evidence suggests that coercion may have been involved in the rising importance of San José Mogote. By 500 b.c.e., the mountaintop settlement of Monte Albán had been founded, and San José Mogote ceased to grow. Zapotec society expanded rapidly in social, political, and economic complexity throughout the succeeding centuries.
Like most Mesoamerican civilizations, the Zapotec were a highly stratified society. Divine kings topped the social hierarchy, followed by lesser hereditary nobility and priests; craftsworkers occupied an intermediate position. Maize, beans, and squash farmers formed the bulk of the...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
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