The Zapotec city of Lambityeco dates to the late classical period and is known for its extraordinary artworks including stucco masks and tombs.
The site itself does not seem all that large, but appearances are deceiving. Only two of nearly 2,000 structures have been excavated. Several unrestored monuments can to this day be found in surrounding fields, but the vast majority have been reduced to piles of rubble or completely destroyed.
The name Lambityeco is Zapotec in origin, though its meaning is a topic of debate with scholars translating it as either “the still mound” or “hollow hill.”
On the other hand, it is often argued that the name Lambityeco should only really apply to the area of the site visible today, as it was part of a larger kingdom known as Yeguih.
The area surrounding Lambityeco had been occupied by Zapotec peoples as far back as 1500 BCE but did not reach its zenith until the 5th century. But like virtually all settlements of the last classical period onwards, the remains of Lambityeco demonstrate a high degree of influence from other cultures, mainly the Mixteca.
The ruins of Lambityeco are divided into two main plazas, with the complex nearest to the highway being the larger of the two.
Structure 195 is made up of a sizable patio with an altar and a steep staircase leading up to a ceremonial platform which shows signs of considerable looting.
Behind this large structure are the remains of up to five elite burial sites, including that of the Coqui, or great lord of the city, as well as his ancestors.
Directly behind Structure 195 is Structure 190, which features beautifully preserved stucco rain god masks of the Zapotec deity known as Cocijo.
Because this region of Oaxaca can be arid, it makes sense that so much attention would be paid to the rain god Cocijo. This is especially true when we consider the Zapotec reliance on crops like beans and maize.
Architecturally, Lambityeco is quite interesting for several reasons, not least among them the wide array of building materials used in its construction, including volcanic stone, adobe, and mortar.
If you go
Getting to Lambityeco from Oaxaca city is easy, as the site is only 20 miles away. It is possible to use public transit on the way to the nearby town of Tlacolula, but you are probably better off taking a taxi. Driving through the mountains in Oaxaca can be hazardous, so it’s a good idea to refrain from renting a car.
Lambityeco is also close to several other Zapotec ruins including Yagul, Dainzu, and Mitla, so you may want to negotiate a day rate with a local driver.
One issue you may run into when visiting archaeological sites in Oaxaca is that custodians are often not exactly on time. Sites are supposed to open no later than 10 but often don’t show up until noon or not at all. Unfortunately, there is not much to be done about this and you just have to test your luck and hope for the best. The entrance to the site is 85 pesos.