INAH deciphers Zapotec frieze at Atzompa site

March 13, 2022

INAH has deciphered an ancient frieze at the Zapotec site of Atzompa, near Monte Albán. It is a 50 foot limestone and stucco frieze dated at 650-850 CE. It depicts a quetzal bird, monkeys, jaguars and supernatural protective figures. INAH researchers discovered depictions of the Mixtec calendar’s year of the lizard, as well as the quincunx—a geometric design alluding to the four directions and the center of the universe.

INAH describes the motifs as “manifestations of the cosmic world to which the construction of [Casa del Sur] responded to.” Lead researcher Nelly Robles García says, “In general, the glyphs are allusions to power in the city, to supernatural protection, and to a time without time.”

Atzompa served as a final way station for quarried stone being transported for construction in Monte Albán. Its  hilltop position allowed it to serve as a defense against the nearby Mixtec.

The original frieze stretched 100 feet. When the Zapotecs abandoned the site at 850 CE, the frieze was partially destroyed. Funerary urns that may have been for sacrificial offerings to demystify the site.

Smithsonian has the report here with photos;

INAH has a slide show of the frieze here; Click on the camera icon;

Mike Ruggeri’s Zapotecs

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Zapotec and Mixtec World