Oaxaca's Tourist Guide
Oaxaca's Tourist Guide


HOME » Cultural Attractions »


Archaeological Sites

(Click to enlarge)

The buildings
The frets
The group of the columns


40 kbps | 100 kbps | 182 kbps

Mitla was the second most important ceremonial centre after Monte Albn. The word Mitla or "Mictlan" comes from Nhuatl, which means "World of the Dead" or "Underworld". In Zapotec, it is called "Lyobaa", which means "Burial Ground". Aztecs named it "Mitlan" [World of the Dead] until it finally evolved to the Spanish version: Mitla.

Both the archaeological site and present-day town are of Zapotec origin. Mitla was inhabited in the Classic period (100 to 650 AD), reaching its peak during the Post- Classic period (750 to 1521 AD).

The largest attraction in Mitla is, without a doubt, the varied ornamentation of its buildings, achieved through a system of fretwork distinguishing it from the rest of the country.

There are five different groups of buildings, known as: the Southern Group, Adobe Group, Creek Group, Columns Group and Church Group. The first two were ceremonial centres, integrated by mounds and central squares. The last three were organised palaces with chambers around quadrangular courtyards.

Of the five groups, the best preserved are the Columns and Church Groups.

The main feature of the Group of Columns are the monolithic columns; it also explains the location's name. The group comprises two quadrangles. In continuation, we will refer only to the quadrangle on the northern extreme. It is limited by platforms on all four sides. The main building is on the northern side. In the centre of the courtyard are traces of a worshipping area, with a slanted wall, formed by two fascias upon which the base, sacrificial slab, and cornice were erected

The Great Hall of Columns is rectangular. Entrance to the main palace is through a narrow door. Outside the passageway, we find a fretwork courtyard, from which we have access to each of the four salons, decorated with three mosaic panels having carved stone frets in different geometric shapes on each band. The frets are formed by thousands of polished stone squares, set together without any kind of grouting.

The most beautiful tombs are located in the northern and eastern buildings. This was the burial are for Zapotec royalty and holy men. In the first of these buildings, in front of the staircase, is the entrance to a cruciform tomb with an entrance chamber. The roof has large monolithic stone lintels and the walls are decorated with panels and fretwork mosaics. The eastern building is characterised by a monolithic stone column that supports the roof.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla: Is located 27 miles (44 kilometres) East of the City of Oaxaca via highway 190 to the Isthmus. Turn left at the kilometre 39 detour to Mitla. Approximate travel time: [0:50]