Monte Albán, Mexico

Zapotec sacred city of pre-Columbian Mexico



CyArk using laser scanning to document Monte Albán by CyArkCyArk

Expedition Overview

In October 2008, CyArk, Leica-Geosystems, and SYSTOP travelled to Monte Alban in the Mexican region of Oaxaca to digitally record and archive major archaeological features at the site. Heritage managers at Monte Alban have faced numerous challenges in the preservation of the site including damage from earthquakes and erosion from visitor foot-traffic. The System IV structure was selected for digital preservation due to its exemplary features of the structural patterns found at the site, including a sunken courtyard and underground tunnels.

A view of the ruins at Monte Albán by CyArkCyArk

Introducing Monte Albán

While people no longer live among the structures at Monte Alban, the city, constructed around 800 BCE, remained one of the largest Mesoamerican cities for over twelve centuries, functioning as the capital for the Zapotec people. The Zapotecs built the city into the ground, leveling off the city's massive platform base, strategically placed 2000 meters above sea level in the central valleys of Oaxaca. Beginning as a centralized space for the Zapotec community, the city grew significantly over time, wielding influence over communities in surrounding regions. Observation of the lines and layout of pyramids, terraces, and platforms illuminate the meticulous architectural planning of the city. From the central platform of Monte Alban, the remarkable view of the surrounding valley and night sky above provides a glimpse into what life was like for people living in the Oaxaca Valley over a thousand years ago. 

Landscape of the Zapotec city, Monte Alban

View of Monte AlbanCyArk

City design at Monte Alban

System IV is a temple-patio-altar complex with a central altar and stairs to the east and west at the edges of a private patio area cut off from outside view. Adobe walls, probably topped in the past with flat wood/earthen roofs, rest atop stone foundations.

Open Heritage 3D by CyArkCyArk

Data from this project is now freely available through Open Heritage 3D.

Download the data from this project

About Open Heritage 3D

The mission of the Open Heritage 3D project is to:

● Provide open access to 3D cultural heritage datasets for education, research and other
non-commercial uses.

● Minimize the technical, financial and legal barriers for publishers of 3D heritage data.

● Promote discovery and re-use of datasets through standardized metadata and data formats.

● Foster community collaboration and knowledge sharing in the 3D cultural heritage community.

● Share best practices and methodologies for the capture, processing and storage of 3D cultural heritage data

Credits: Story

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This project was made possible with the following partners:

Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia

Leica Geosystems


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