Alfonso Caso: The Hunt for Monte Alban

Alfonso Caso started his archaeological career as a professor, and also former student, at the University of Mexico from 1918 to 1940 where his specialty was Oaxacan history and culture. From there he became the Head of the Archaeology department at the National Museum in Mexico from 1930 to 1933 and soon became the director of the department from 1933 to 1934. During his time as an archaeologist, Caso directed an excavation of the Zapotec city of Monte Alban in Oaxaca in 1931 and was the first person since the city’s abandonment to rediscover the secretes of the nearly forgotten city. Alfonso Caso ended up spending 16 seasons discovering the hidden gems of the overgrown city.

Over roughly the next 12 years, Caso made discoveries at Monte Alban that opened up an untold story of Oaxacan cultures. One of his most remarkable discoveries was that of Tomb #7 which showed evidence of the Mixtec people occupying the city after the displacement of the Zapotec people sometime before the Spanish Conquest. Although Tomb #7 is the most famous tomb at Monte Alban it is not the only major discovery found among the other tombs. Also found within some of the 170 on site tombs, Caso found a series of vivid polychrome frescoes, sacred motives, painted figurines, and also the remains of Kings and Priest which points to the ancient site being used as a necropolis. Caso also uncovered evidence pointing to Monte Alban having five major stages of history which correlates to separate ancient sites and dates back to 800 BCE. The correlated text found at various sites helped Caso to be the first person to decipher the Mixtec Codices and provide an accurate chronological history of Monte Alban which brought them closer to understanding the Zapotec and recently discovered Mixtec way of live at Monte Alban.

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Alfonso Caso

Alfonso Caso

Born February 1, 1896 in Mexico City, Alfonso Caso made incredible discoveries that contributed to the studies of Pre-Columbian history in his native country of Mexico. He is most notable for the evacuation of Monte Alban but also discovered other sites in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca | Source: “Alfonso Caso Andrade.” Museo EBC, museoebc.org/eventos/alfonso-caso-andrade. View File Details Page

The Zapotec

The Zapotec

The Zapotec, or "Cloud People", tended to settle in the southern highlands of central Mesoamerican, specifically the Valley of Oaxaca. The Zapotec inhabited the area during the late Preclassic period to the end of the Classic period (500 BCE - 900CE). The original capital of the Zapotec people was Monte Alban but then moved to Mitla. | Source: Mrreese. “The Lost Zapotec: Vibrant Mesoamerican Civilization of The Cloud People.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-americas/lost-zapotec-vibrant-mesoamerican-civilization-cloud-people-002381. View File Details Page

The Mixtec

The Mixtec

The Mixtec people of Mesoamerica inhabited the Mexican state of Oaxaca during their existence. In the Pre-Columbian era, The Mixtec were one of the many major civilizations of the time and were regarded for their craftsmanship and artistic ability. Do to their acclaimed skills, Mixtec items have been found at many sites throughout Mesoamerican which proves the theory of trade between separate groups of Natives. | Source: “Additional Pictures For National Museum Of Anthropology (Mexico City).” Uwe Duerr, www.uweduerr.com/blog/2015/3/7/additional-pictures-for-national-museum-of-anthropology-mexico-city. View File Details Page

The Oaxacan State

The Oaxacan State

Oaxaca is one of the most culturally diverse states in Mexico. The rough topography which isolates the inhabitants from one another gave way for about 16 ethnolinguistic groups who maintained the individual languages, traditions, and history well after the Pre-Columbian era. The two largest groups of the Oaxacan state are the Zapotec and Mixtec people. | Source: “Map of Mexico.” Map of Oaxaca in Mexico, www.map-of-mexico.co.uk/map-of-oaxaca.htm. View File Details Page

The Mixtec Codex

The Mixtec Codex

The Mixtec codex contains 45 pages of symbols created as the Mixtec language. After Alfonso Caso deciphered the code, it was learned that the codex contained events and history including Lord 8 Wind, Lady 3 Flint, and "Jaguar-Claw". The Mixtec codex is the oldest existing history of the Mixtec people | Source: Miller, Mark. “Treasures of Mexico: The Mixtec, Aztec & Maya Codices That Survived the Conquistadors.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-ancient-writings/treasures-mexico-mixtec-aztec-maya-codices-survived-conquistadors-003245. View File Details Page

Street Address:

Oaxaxa, Mexico [map]

Cite this Page:

Christina Wicker, “Alfonso Caso: The Hunt for Monte Alban,” HistoricalMX, accessed November 21, 2017, http://historicalmx.org/items/show/102.

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