Mitla, The Place of the Dead, The Place of Rest
04.10.2008 - 26.10.2008
About 45kms. from the city of Oaxaca are the famous prehistoric ruins of Mitla, which occupy the place of pride of Mexican archaeology of the Zapotec period in the history of Mexico. The pyramids are constructed, albeit with a smaller base than at Monte Albán, at the base of the valley, which was inhabited and not on isolated regions of the mountain. These were built mostly for religious ceremonies and even today are conserved in better condition than the ruins at Chiapas and Yukatan, which are situated at lower tropical parts of the country where as Mitla is situated at higher altitude above the sea level.
The city of San Pablo de Villa de Mitla was founded by the Spaniards, corruption of the Aztec name Mictalan, which means The place of the Dead . the Zapotec name of the site was Lyobaa which means The Place of Rest. Five groups form the bulk of the accessible structures at Mitla, and include different buildings organised around central patios. These are the Catholic Church Group (Grupo de Iglesias), the Group of the Columns or Hall of the Monoliths, the Arroyo Group, the Adobe Group and the South Group. These structures include elegant residential complexes, temples and several burial tombs located underneath the patios and buildings. The tombs when discovered were found to be empty.
The most interesting is the Hall of Columns, and the very long and wide row of huge stone columns running down the centre of the hall. The columns, we were told, were cut from a single piece of hollow volcanic stone. The construction of the stone walls appears to have been the same for all groups: a core of mud and stone covered with plaster or well-cut trachyte rock, brought from mountains queries seven or eight kilometers away. The weight of each column has been calculated to be more than six tons. The geometric patterns called grecas (Greeks) seen on some of the stone walls and door frames are made from thousands of cut, polished stones that are fitted together without mortar, set upon and adjusted in their places without any visible joints. Although the stone pillars are still standing intact, the roof supported by them was long destroyed.
The ancient Egyptians brought lime stone from all over the Nile delta and Aswan which is at a distance of more than 400kms, also from Arabia, to build their Pyramids. Solar Stonehenge in Wiltshire (UK) was buith with Bluestone, Sarsen, Welsh Sandstone dedicated to the worship of the sun and moon and human sacrifice. The Avebury(UK) Mololith Columns seems to have been dedicated to more human themes. The strong sexual symbolism, in evidence in the way the triangular and columnar stones were paired together, in conjunction with the elaborate funeral celebrations, show us that the cycle of birth, life and death was very important in Neolithic times.
The interior and exterior of these halls are carved in a geometrical design and must have involved great time and effort on part of the artisans. The complicated and detailed designs on the stones, reminded me of the passion and obsession of Michelangelo, who like the Greeks, always wanted to carve his statues from the single blocks of marble, and with great care and labour, went to the village of Carrara for its white marble and to the village of Pietra Santa, not only for supervising the cutting of the blue-grey rocks but lugged them down himself and carved the immortal masterpieces which we enjoy looking at today.