Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Largest Ball Game Court in Atzompa Investigated

Category: News reports

INAH, Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca, March 24, 2009. National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) archaeologists explored recently in Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca, a 45 meters long ballgame court that is the largest found near the ancient city of Monte Alban. Investigations pointed out that other than the central Monte Alban court, the other were secondary, until now.

It is known that Santa Maria Atzompa was a satellite city of Monte Alban between 650 and 850 AD, and other 2 smaller courts were located there.

Dr Nelly Robles Garcia, director of Monte Alban Archaeological Zone, and responsible of the exploration, mentioned that it is still a mystery why so many ballgame courts were built in a different area than the nuclear one of Monte Alban.

“It is an aspect that we need to unveil, 3 courts were located near one of another. The largest one is located to the south of Santa Maria Atzompa and has a view to Monte Alban. Players could watch the city during the fight” she mentioned.

Before archaeological exploration began at Atzompa, it was believed that courts other than Monte Alban central one were secondary. Locating another one, larger, points out that it was more relevant.

The specialist reminded that Atzompa was first explored during the 1930’s decade by archaeologist Jorge Acosta. The contemporary excavation focused on the court’s headers, the exact dimensions were established as well as stratographic analyses, which determined that there were 2 constructive stages between 650 and 850 AD.

“If the ritual ballgame is associated with development of the defensive system and the great expansion of Monte Alban, it makes sense to have found a court of these dimensions that served more than one generation, undergoing restoration during Prehispanic times”.

Robles Garcia detailed that exploration of one of the small courts has the aim to help determine -by means of the objects found there- if it had a ritual or a training use.

Position generation resulting from archaeological exploration has been positive for nearby communities; only during 2008, more than 100 persons were hired to participate in different activities.

Small Satellite City

Atzompa, along with Cerro del Gallo, El Plumaje, Monte Alban Chico and El Mogollito conjuncts, surrounded Monte Alban, but Atzompa was not a neighborhood but a satellite city.

“During the Late Classic period, between 650 and 850 AD, Monte Alban expanded and established important areas such as Atzompa. For strategic reasons it was founded on the northern hill, to control the fertile Etla Valley, from where tribute came in, and the Mixteca region, a rival”.

The quarries located near Santa Maria Atzompa point out that it was an exchange position for the stone with which the last Monte Alban buildings were constructed.

“Santa Maria Atzompa was much more than a neighborhood and it helped to give vent to population concentration that Monte Alban suffered in that stage”, concluded the INAH specialist.

Source: INAH

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