Zapotec Civilization

The Zapotec civilization developed in southern Mexico, especially in the region of Oaxaca, between the isthmus of Tehuantepec to Acapulco. According to archaeological records, this civilization dates back to 800 BC. The Zapotecs were contemporary with the Mayan civilization, the Aztecs and the Teotihuacans.

In fact, the Zapotecs were the predominant ethnic group in the Oaxaca region, after about 1,000 BC the first Zapotecs began arriving in this region, where they built important cities such as Monte Albán and Mitla.

Precisely, the city Monte Albán was the capital of the region of the Valley of Oaxaca, is located about 10 km from the city of Oaxaca de Juárez. From there, political, religious and economic control was exercised over other peoples.

It is estimated that Monte Albán had about 35 thousand inhabitants, becoming one of the first urban centers of Mesoamerica. According to some historians, this city may exist for more than 2000 years.

This city was built on several stepped platforms of different heights, there would have been built sacred buildings, tombs, markets and stadiums.

The word Zapotec is derived from the Nahuatl language “tzapotecah,” meaning “inhabitants of the Zapote region.” Zapotes is a tree that gives the fruit called sapote, chewing gum is also produced from this tree and latex is extra.See More Civilizations HERE.

Characteristics of the Zapotec Civilization

The Zapotecs were polytheistic, that is, they believed in several gods. However, they highlighted a great god called the God Xipe Totec: Xipe is the creator God and Totec is the elder God.

Among other gods also stood out the god of rain “God Cocijo”; “Coquihani” the god of sunlight; “Pitao Cozobi”, the god of young corn; “Xonaxi Quecuya”, the god of earthquakes; “Coqui Bezelao” the god of the dead; “Pitao Cozana” the god of ancestors and “Quetzalcoatl” who was the feathered serpent.

Among the superstitions that had the Zapotec civilization, a so-called “Nahualism” stands out, which refers to the “dark wizards” taking advantage of their totem to become animals during the night and to do evil.

Another custom of the Zapotecs, was the “tonal”, which was to put ashes in the hut on the day of the birth of a baby, the next day on those ashes, the figure of an animal would appear, this would be the totem of the child, that animal I would define his personality.

The totem is an animal or a natural object that represents an iconic symbol of a tribe or a person.

The importance of worshiping the dead (what is known as the day of the dead in Mexico) lay in the Zapotecs worshiped their ancestors, believing that there was an underground paradise.

This civilization also made human sacrifices that were very important within the religious ritual, the important work of the potters and weavers, was represented in the clay pots and funeral urns that they laid on the graves.

In fact, this type of art, of the funerary urns in ceramics with various details, is known as pre-Columbian baroque style. In general terms, the art of this civilization was influenced by the Olmec civilization.

The Zapotecs, like the Maya, developed a writing based on hieroglyphics, anyway, they had several languages ​​that are still spoken in the mountains of central Mexico

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