Monday, January 4, 2016

Monte Alban and the Tree of Tule

This morning we visited Monte Alban, an archaeological site on top of a hill a few miles west of Oaxaca City. It's not as big as Teotihuacan or as famous as Chichen Itza but it's just as impressive. Perhaps more so, given it's much earlier than either - founded by the Zapotecs in around 500BC making it one of the earliest 'cities' in MesoAmerica. There are the customary temples, tombs, ball courts and dwellings, and a lot of really interesting stone carvings, some of people, some of pictographic writing. Our guide pointed out non-Zapotec figures which he said were evidence that Chinese, African and Assyrian people had come to Meso-America before the Spanish. I don't know about that, but there were clear examples of their knowledge of biology & medicine with graphic carvings of internal organs & breech births. According to research, the city reached a peak in around 500AD, thereafter it fell into decline before late 19th / early 20th century archaeologists 'rediscovered' it. Fascinating place. 
From there to the Arbol del Thule (Tree of Thule) on the other side of Oaxaca City. It's quite some tree, not in terms of its height, but its girth. At about 42m in circumference and 14m in diameter, it has the thickest trunk in the world. At first it was thought that it was multiple trees but not so, it's just one. It's also incredibly old: at least 1,500 years. And it's dying… Traffic, pollution, and the town around it is guzzling up all the water that would normally go to the tree's roots. 

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