Stone Fretwork Reliefs in the Palace of the Columns
A smaller, and somewhat later site in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mitla lies about 40 miles south-east of Monte Alban along the Pan-American highway, and at the eastern end of the central Valley of Oaxaca. It was the capital of the Mixtecs, also known as the 'cloud people', invaders coming from the northern mountains of south-central Mexico, who dominated the site for a short period between 1200-1494 AD, when the Aztecs conquered the town.
Mitla was a Zapotec settlement from about 100 AD onward, and became an important regional center with the decline of Monte Alban around 750 AD. Most of the structures at the site date from about 1200-1490 AD, there are several groups of palaces and courtyards that are famous for their brilliant color and elaborate stone fretwork and mosaic friezes and decoration.
The City is set into the hillside on the north side of the Mitla river, and consists of a series of large, square courtyards surrounded by long, low palace structures, set on terraces and accessed by broad staircases at the front. The terraces at the base are coated with a deep red plaster, while the buildings above are of golden, yellow stone, which sets off brilliantly against the blue and white of the clouds. The Palace of the Columns is the finest structure at the site, it has been estimated to contain about 100.000 separate pieces of stone in it's construction.
|Palace of the Columns from the Plaza
The Palace of the Columns lies on the north side of the Patio of the Columns, the largest
of several courtyards, running north to south down the south-facing hillside on the north
side of the Mitla river. The Palace consists of the Hall of the Columns, a long, narrow
space with a row of columns in the middle, running parallel to the north side of the patio.
Behind this, to the north, is another square palace complex, accessed by the Patio of the
Mosaics in the middle.
|Looking West in the Patio of Mosaics
Behind the Hall of the Columns, on the north side of the patio, and near the entrance to the site, there is a square palace complex, with long, narrow galleries on all four sides of the Patio of the Mosaics. The patio is a square space, with one large square doorway on each side of the space. The walls of the patio are elaborately detailed and ornamented with heavy, horizontal stone mosaic friezes with interlocking fretwork and geometric motifs, framed in smooth masonry registers in several tiers at the tops of the walls. There are at least 14 distinct geometric motifs that have been identified in the friezes at Mitla, they represent the earth and the sky, and the feathered serpent and other divinities.
|View to the South from the Iglesia Complex
The Iglesia Complex, or church group, lies north of the entrance, in the highest part of
the archaeological site. It consists of a group of buildings around two square courtyards,
one north of the other. As was typical of their conquering fashion, the Spaniards built the
Church of San Pablo, over the top of the southern-most patio, and at the highest point on
the site, when they arrived here in the 18th century.
|One of the Tombs in the southern courtyard
South of the Patio of the Columns, and a little further down the hill and to the west,
there is another large, square courtyard known as the Patio of the Tombs, because there are
subterranean tombs located under the front facades and stairways of the buildings on the
north and east sides of the plaza. The tomb on the north side of the patio contains the
Column of Life, said to foretell the number of years left in the life of those who put
their arms around the fat stone pillar.
|Looking South from the upper patio of the Church Group
The Iglesia, or Church Group, at the northern edge of the site, has two square patios. The
south patio and it's surrounding palace structures were over-built with the Christian
Church of San Pablo, which has a nave running east to west, and 3 portals and a tower on
the west facade. The roof of the church was made of two large octagonal domes, and several
lower, subsidiary domes, all covered in bright red tile and with tall, square lanterns at
the top of each dome.
|Patio of the Arroyo Group to the South-West
The Arroyo Group is another large complex of buildings, organized around several courtyards,
that lies to the south-west and downhill from the main part of the site. There are 3 patios,
running north to south on the west bank of a small tributary to the Mitla river. The buildings
are somewhat later, and of lower quality and importance to the site. This view is looking to
the north and west sides of the remaining patio.
Andreas Kultermann - firstname.lastname@example.org|
324 N. Main St. #612, Davenport, IA 52801