Alaska, Mexico and Beyond…

“One Journey Leads to Another”

Archive for the category “Archaeological Sites”

The World Has So Much to Offer…

And in this corner of the world is Oaxaca!

Life in Oaxaca is rich withHumorous art













I hope  readers will learn from and smile at my photographic stories!

Ruins of a Spanish Mine

Spread along the Rio Papaloapam, high in the Sierra Norte north of the city of Oaxaca, are the ruins of Spanish haciendas that were built and inhabited during the years of Spanish exploitation of the mineral riches of the area.

According to historical records, Cortés learned of the possible existence of gold and silver in the Sierras and immediately sent scouts in search of the minerals. They returned with the news that the mountains were indeed rich with gold and silver ore, and Cortés, ever the opportunist, claimed the entire Central Valley of Oaxaca for himself (year 1521). The Spaniards built the infrastructure needed for mining operations and constructed aqueducts, large haciendas, stone bridges, and a church. These remains are located deep in a lush valley near the villages of San Miguel Amatlán and Lachatao.

Hacienda Wall

Hacienda Wall

Click on any photo to enlarge it   

The Friday hikers explored El Socorro, the first section of the Spanish ruins.

A sinuous highway (the highway signs said so!) led us through seemingly endless mountains that offered spectacular vistas. Local people navigate narrow gravel roads that zig-zag up the mountainsides to their villages.

Winding River, Winding Road

Winding River, Winding Road

After climbing to the mountaintop to pick up our guides in the tiny village of Amatlán, our excellent bus driver maneuvered to the valley floor on a dirt road that was clearly not designed for a school bus! He received a loud cheer and applause when we reached the fork where the hikers got off and started down the trail, while he continued on to a wide spot where he was faced with the daunting task of turning the bus around!

Our guides hopped off the bus and cleared rocks from the “road.”


Ruins of the Hacienda

Ruins of the Hacienda

Trout were visible lazing in the shadows of pools in the river, which  runs with clean, clear water.

Trout were visible lazing in the shadows of pools in the clean, clear waters of the Rio Papaloapam.

The pink blossoms decorated fat cactus in perfect circles.

Perfect circles of pink blossoms crown these fat cactus

Epiphytes grow anywhere and everywhere they can find a resting place. Some cactus favor the tops of old stone walls, while other prefer to just hang around.

Mountainside church

At the end of a long day of busing, hiking, and exploring…what could be better than relaxing and spending the night in a cabaña with a view!

Cabin with a View

For information on ecotourism in The Sierra Norte, and how YOU TOO could hike in these magnificent mountains and end your day in one of many charming cabañas:

Several of the photos in this blog were taken by my husband, David, who has become a hiker and photographer too!

Travel theme: Symbol

Ancient Symbols

Zapotec/Mixtec Symbols

The Zapotec people (in combination with Mixtec groups) adorned their structures with these symbols, which are quite different from those found in other ruins of the area. The archaeological site is located in the town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico.


Zapotec symbols decorate the alebrijes

The symbols are repeated on the whimsical hand carved and intricately painted alebrijes that are created in the villages of Arrazola and San Martín Tilcajete. A workshop that I visited in Arrazola provided a Zapotec explanation of the symbols with the purchase of their stunning artwork.

Hiking Oaxaca: Santa Ana del Valle

Hugging the foot of a mountain in the Tlacolula Valley, the charming village of Santa Ana del Valle was the starting point for the weekly hike of “Hoofing It In Oaxaca.” Zapotec is the common language spoken here, and many people earn at least part of their living by weaving gorgeous rugs and other tapestries.

View of Santa Ana

The village of Santa Ana is in the foreground, and Tlacolula, the largest city in this valley, is in the distance.

Santa Ana del Valle Overlook

Santa Ana del Valle Overlook

From an altitude of approximately 5400 feet, we climbed 1619 ft. (493.5 m.)to a high point of about 7032 ft. (2143 m.) Particularly for those of us used to living at sea level, there was a lot of huffing and puffing! Our rewards were spectacular views in every direction and the opportunity to visit an unexcavated archaeological site.

Ancient Ball Court

This ancient ball court is part of the unexcavated archaeological site at the top of the mountain.

Descending is SO much easier than climbing!

Descending is SO much easier than climbing!

Back in the plaza of Santa Ana, we visited their lovely church and bought handwoven tapestries from friendly local artists.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgia

Kenaitze Dena'ina Indian

Kenaitze Dena’ina Indian
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Sqilantnu, an area of the Kenai Peninsula that is now known as Cooper Landing, was historically the home of the Kenaitze Dena’ina Indians, a tribe of Alaska Natives. The K’Beq’ (footprints) Interpretive Site was established to educate visitors about the culture and lifestyle of the Dena’ina. A boardwalk built beside the Kenai River encircles the site of a home that has long since disappeared, but the depression that was the underground section of the home and another small round depression that was the in-ground “refrigerator” remain. Signs with memories of the Elders were posted along the boardwalk.

Hiking Oaxaca

Want to view stunning scenery, enjoy new kinds of plants and trees, and breathe cool, fresh mountain air while exercising in the company of friends? Take a hike! The Hoofing it in Oaxaca group does all this every Friday from November through March, and anyone with energy to burn can participate. We have joined six hikes so far, and have seen parts of the countryside around Oaxaca that we would never have known existed. 

Archaeological Site of Atzompa



Formerly inhabited by the Zapotec people, Atzompa is believed to be an extension of Monte Albán (Jan. 4 post) which flourished between 500 B.C. and 750 A.D. Archaeologists are just now excavating and restoring the ruins that are being unearthed.

San Felipe del Agua: Hike 3 miles up a mountainside and still be in the city!

Old Aqueduct

Built in the 1500’s, this aqueduct used to carry water from San Felipe to the residents of Oaxaca, which was then called Antequera.

San Sebastian de las Grutas (post Jan. 19)

Inside the Gruta

Inside the Gruta. See the Jan. 19 blog for more pictures of the gruta.

Mountain Hikes

The city of Oaxaca lies in a valley of over 5,000 ft. altitude, and some of the mountain trails took us to more than 10,000 ft.

A Long Way Up

Uncountable hairpin turns on this dirt road made the 2 hour bus ride through the mountains to San Pablo Cuatro Venados an adventure of its own.

Why we all hike

Why we all hike

Our fearless leader, Larry, has created a great website that contains more historical information and maps of all hiking areas for this season. 

Museum of Oaxaca Culture

Treasures discovered in the ancient city of Monte Albán awe visitors in the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, which is a part of the spectacular Iglesia y Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo. Our trip to Monte Albán inspired us to visit the museum, and the extent of the historical objects and information surpassed all expectations.

Turquoise embedded skull found in tomb at Monte Albáan

Turquoise embedded skull found in tomb at Monte Albáan

Looking at the intricate art work created from gold, silver, ceramics, and precious stones makes me wish I could see those past lives in reality for only one day, and I’m sure that wish is shared by many! There is evidence that people have lived in this area for at least 10,000 years, and in this museum you will learn about life in the Oaxaca Valley from that beginning through the Mexican Revolution.

Necklace of gold, turquoise, and coral

Necklace of gold, turquoise, and coral

By the time we got to the Spanish Conquest our imaginations were saturated, but we will return soon to complete the journey!

Ceiling of Museum Entryway

Ceiling of Museum Entryway

Monte Albán Archaeological Site

Doorway to the Past

Doorway to the Past

Our bus threaded its way though Oaxaca traffic to the opposite side of the valley then began to climb the narrow winding road up the mountainside. At the top, hidden behind another hill, only 10 km (6 miles) from Oaxaca City, lies the spectacular prehispanic city of Monte Albán.

Monte Albán is a significant archaeological site built on a series of hills in the center of the Valley of Oaxaca. This ancient capital of the Zapotec people flourished between 500 BC and 800 AD and was the first large center of political and economic power in this region of Mesoamerica. Archaeologists debate the exact origin of the first inhabitants, who grew corn, chiles, squash, and beans on the hillsides, but they believe those people came from communities in the valley and spoke an old version of Zapotec. The old name of this city is also debated, and I have seen spellings of Dani BAA ,  Dani Baa, or Danni Dipaa.

Ball Court

Ball Court

Archeologists have organized the history of the Valley of Oaxaca into 5 periods from 500 BC to the Spanish conquest in the early 1500’s. The periods are known as Monte Albán I-V, and throughout these centuries new walls, plazas, and staircases were rebuilt at Monte Albán, each new style dependent on the ethnicity of the builders.

Monte Alban I (500 BC-100 AD): built in Zapotec style. This period corresponds to the peak and decline of the Olmec people, and the building with the Danzantes (Dancers) is in the Olmec style.



II: (100-300 AD) Mayans from the south left remains of their religion both in building style and artifacts.

III: (300-800 AD) The population reached 35,000 to 40,000. Leaders of this time built complex as it is seen today. They were heavily influenced by the style of Teotohuacán structures in the Valley of Mexico.

IV: (800-1325 AD) The construction of monumental structures stopped, and the population declined for unknown reasons. The cause might have been drought, disease, revolt, or overpopulation that created stress on the food and water supply. By 1000 AD, Monte Albán was largely abandoned.

V (1325-1521 AD): Mixtec people from the north invaded Valley of Oaxaca and warred with Zapotecs. They settled in the valley, in places such as Zaachila and Xoxocotlán. At times the Mixtec opened tombs and reused by them for burial vaults. Their art and architecture blended with that of Zapotecs and resulted in some of the styles known today.

Stelae - Solar Demarcations

Stelae – Solar Demarcations

Treasures found in tombs of Monte Albán are items crafted from gold, silver, turquoise, and alabaster. Visitors can admire these (and MUCH more) in the Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo in Oaxaca City.

In these galleries you can see views of Oaxaca City from Monte Albán.

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