Santa Maria del Tule, Mexico
The small village of Santa María del Tule lies about 10km/6mi east on MEX 190. The famous tree of Tule (Arbol del Tule), an impressive example of a species of cypress tree (Taxodium Mucronatum Ten), stands in front of a charming little church. It is estimated to be 2000 years old, is 40 m (131 ft) tall and has a circumference of 42 m (138 ft).
San Jeronimo Church, Tlacochahuaya, Mexico
A further 10km/6mi from Santa María del Tule a turning to the left leads to the nearby town of Tlacochahuaya with the 16th c. San Jerónimo Church.The colourful paintings inside the church are original. Indians portrayed their artistic and religious ideas here in a highly original way by covering the walls with stars, flowers, birds, suns and angels.
Teotitlan del Valle, Mexico
3km/2mi past Tlacochahuaya, a left turn leads to Teotitlán del Valle, 5km/3mi away. This village with a pre-Spanish past is built around a 17th c. church and is widely known for sarapes (rectangular woollen cloaks with a central hole for the head).
Shortly after Teotitlán del Valle a turning to the left leads to the site of the archaeological ruin Dainzú. Excavation work has revealed that a very old settlement which once existed here was probably inhabited from about 500 BC until AD 1400, i.e. during the Monte Albán I-V periods. Only a few buildings from this once great Zapotec cult centre have been researched.One of the most important of these buildings has a pyramid-shaped base and is built in a style similar to that of the north platform at Monte Albán.A gallery of highly-interesting flat worked stones was found on the south side of the basement. The reliefs appear, like the "danzantes" in Monte Albán, to have been influenced by the Olmecs. Depictions include people playing the ball game (pelota), and priests or deities with jaguars as patrons of the game. The main staircase in this building was constructed later (about AD 700). Similar figures and scenes to those in the wall gallery have been chiselled into the rocks at the summit of the hill. The tomb of a ruler or priest has also been found here. A building in the process of excavation, whose walls and staircases date from the 3rd c. bc, can be seen in the lower section of the construction. A ball court dating from the 10th or 11th c. AD is situated a little to one side.
A few2mi further past Dainzú the archaeological site of Lambityeco lies close to the road. This settlement, which was considerably larger than its present remains suggest, enjoyed its heyday from ad 700-900 in line with the decline and abandonment of Monte Albán by the Zapotecs. A small pyramid can be seen, under which an old house was excavated.A total of seven tombs were found here; two heads with names, possibly representing the former owner of the house and his wife, are chiselled into the façade of Tomb 5. Two impressive sculptures of the Zapotec rain god Cocijo were discovered in Lambityeco's second tomb, which was several times built over. A frieze depicting human figures and glyphs, an altar and a tomb, all hewn from stone, are to be found in a patio. It is now assumed that the inhabitants of this unprotected place moved on to settle at Yagul, an older cult site 5km/3mi away.
Capilla del Santo Cristo, Tlacolula, Mexico
About 2km/1.3mi further past Lambityeco on a short road on the right leads to the ancient little Zapotec town of Tlacolula, which boasts a parish church built in 1647.The Baroque façade of the church is in three parts with round-headed arches, columns, niches and a window lighting the choir. The interior is also mainly Baroque with the usual local features. The door to the Capilla del Santo Cristo (Chapel of Christ), the choir screen and the pulpit rails are magnificent examples of the simple wrought ironwork of the colonial period. The fantastic expertly-worked stucco ornamentation of the chapel resembles that of the Santo Domingo Church in Oaxaca, and the Rosary Chapel in Puebla. Christ, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and martyrs carryng their heads under their arms are portrayed. Also of note are the gold-rimmed mirrors (some embellished with the Habsburg double eagle), the silver chandeliers, the pews and the silver altar. Although Indian influence is occasionally clearly discernible in the ornamentation it is not as evident as in many of the Poblano churches.A secret passage was discovered in the church which led to a room where valuable silver religious items were discovered. They were hidden here during the Mexican Revolutionary War but are now displayed from time to time.Tlacolula is also known for its picturesque Sunday market. From Tlacolula it is only 10km/6mi to Mitla.
Cuilapan is home to the lovely Church and Convent of Santiago Apóstol and a number of old Indian ruins.
The village of Zaachila lies 6km/4mi further south on the same road as Cuilapan. The last capital of the Zapotec kingdom was once situated here; its remains were only rediscovered in 1962. Up to the present time only the foundations of some of the structures on a hill behind the Church of the Virgen de Juquila have been excavated.The large central pyramid has hardly been examined. Tombs 1 and 2 were discovered within a patio inside a rectangular platform. Two jaguar heads decorate the facade of Tomb 1; two owls with outspread wings modelled in stucco can be seen in the antechamber. In the burial chamber itself there are stucco figures of two rulers of the underworld with hearts hanging from their shoulders, each accompanied by a priest named "5 Flower" and "9 Flower" with a copal sack. On the back wall an old man is depicted wearing a headdress, with turtle-shell armour on his body and flints in his hands. Tomb 2 was considerably more modestly furnished, although valuable burial objects made of gold, jade and precious stones were found here. These are now kept in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. As was often the case around Oaxaca, Zapotec graves here were later also used by the Mixtecs as burial chambers. Monoliths, embellished with reliefs, found in the surrounding area are occasionally displayed on the village square.
San José Mogote
The very old ruined site of San José Mogote lies about 10km/6mi north-west of Oaxaca on the MEX 190 to Guadalupe. Between 1150-850 BC this was the most important of the several settlements in Oaxaca Valley; it was then superseded by Monte Albán between 600 and 500 BC.A stone and adobe building dating from the heyday of the site bears reliefs depicting a jaguar's head and vultures, the oldest stone sculptures yet found in Oaxaca. Between 800-600 BC a relief slab was made, which served as the threshold of a building, depicting a naked, writhing figure, reminiscent of the later "danzantes" of Monte Albán I.Reconstructed tombs can be seen with other exhibits in the small museum.
North-west from San José Mogote along the MEX 190 is the small town of Huijazoo. Shortly behind the town a turning to the left leads over railway lines to the excavation site of Huijazoo (Náhuatl: "in the war fortress") where nine tombs were discovered.The most remarkable of these tombs is Tomb 5 which lies beneath a pyramid not yet examined. A serpent mask forms the entrance to this tomb, whose interior is furnished with sculptured columns and coloured murals. It is thought that these frescos, which depict rulers or priests, date from the 8th to 10th c. ad and are of Zapotec origin. The architecture and painting are unique for this part of the country.The ruins are temporarily closed to visitors.
Map of Oaxaca Attractions