Mitla is a town in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, which is famous for its pre-Columbian buildings with a unique in Mesoamerica Wandornamentik. The Zapotec place name is Lyobaa ( ' burial place' ), the Nahuatl - speaking Aztecs made ​​it Mictlán ( ' place of the dead '). The full current local name is San Pablo Villa de Mitla. The palace of Mitla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Location and population

Mitla is located about 48 km southeast of Oaxaca at an altitude of 1,480 m above sea level. inst and has about 7,500 inhabitants. Today it is a modern Zapotekenstadt and a popular tourist destination for visitors to Oaxaca. The town has a small museum and is home to a large market. Most of the buildings from pre-Hispanic times lie at the northern end of town. The majority of the population speaks a variant of the Zapotec.

Precolumbian Mitla


Although archaeological evidence indicate that Mitla was already settled 500 BC, the oldest buildings date back to about 200 AD Pre-Columbian style buildings until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors (1520 ) can be found. The city has since been continuously inhabited; Parts of the modern city were built over the pre-Hispanic Mitla, but some groups of the old aristocratic palace complex remain. In its heyday, Mitla had about 10,000 inhabitants and extended along both banks of the River Mitla over more than 1 km. While the inhabitants of the neighboring town of Monte Albán increased, decreased the Mitlas. From a residential town became a city with increasingly ritual significance which apparently were the first ones remaining buildings.

With the beginning of the Mixtec invasion from about 1000 AD a hill surrounded in the west Mitlas of a stone wall and fastened with a citadel. Mitlas importance increased with the fall of Monte Alban: The Southern Zapotec made ​​from Mitla their capital, the high priest / priest-king entertained his residence. Although Mitla Zapotec remained a city, the Mixtec influence of imported polychrome vessels and remnants of destroyed frescoes in the style reveals Mixtec manuscripts.

In 1494 the Aztecs conquered Mitla and sacked the city. When the Spaniards took over the place, they saw their efforts for the conversion of the local indigenous people thwarted by their original faith which manifested itself in old buildings, such as those in Mitla. To control the problem or fight, the Spaniards built new churches on the foundations of ancient temples, whose building material they used for the new building.

2010, the palace of Mitla was jointly recognized with Yagul as a World Heritage Site.

History of Research

A number of Spanish authors of the colonial era mentioned the well- established pre-Columbian building. Alexander von Humboldt published in 1810 a description of the place. The wall paintings studied Eduard Seler. Some excavations and repairs to the buildings were made in 1901 under the direction of Leopoldo Batres, the then Inspector General of Monuments. The Mexican government undertook further excavations at the site in the mid- 1930s and in the early 1960s.


While the religious buildings are available in most Mesoamerican cities at the heart, one believes in Mitla, a palace town in front of you, in which even the dead were buried in underground grave chambers, which are modeled after the palaces. The same applies to Yagul and Zaachila, two neighboring cities Mitlas.

The earliest structures in Mitla ( from the Late Formative and Early Classic period ) are Zapotec, rudiments of the post- classical period, which were built during the Mixtec occupation of the site, often show an interesting mix of the Zapotec and Mixtec elements. Five groups of buildings, including the Grupo de las Columnas ( ' group of columns '), a former palace on the east side, remained intact. They each consist of three large rooms, which are arranged around tombs and a courtyard.

One of the rooms, which is known as Salon de las Columnas ( ' hall of pillars '), is home to six monolithic columns that once supported the roof. Here also two tombs were discovered with its cruciform layout. In the north, the Grupo de la Iglesia is ( ' Church Group '), a palace, in the center of which the colonial Catholic church. The pre-Columbian buildings that have been preserved, the construction of the Grupo de las Columnas are similar but smaller. They have traces of painting.


The palace walls are decorated with distinctive geometric mosaics, which are characteristic of the buildings in Mitla: stepped fret, so-called Grecas, and serrated belts belong to these typical decoration patterns. Each frieze is working as a mosaic and consists of up to 100,000 separate, precisely crafted stone; in some places where static reasons instead of small stones large stone blocks were used perform this same mosaic pattern continued as a relief. While a disastrous defensive ( apotropaic ) attaches many ornaments in the various cultures of the world importance, the abstract, varied and only parts of the wall surfaces inside and be coated ornamental motifs Mitlas seem to have purely decorative character.


Outer wall ornament with paint residues

Hall of Columns

Reconstruction ceiling and wall ornaments


Some of the objects found in Mitla are exhibited in the Museo de Arte Frisell Mitla Zapotec in the heart of the city.