Our cab pulling into the parking lot immediately below the ruins of Atzompa made a total of four cars. Not much of a crowd for the high season of tourism in Oaxaca, but, for some reason, the Zapotec ruins of Atzompa are not yet included on the visitor map handed out at the information booth in front of the Cathedral. Guidebooks are only now catching up with the opening of the site to the public two or so years ago.
As a result, venturing there reminded us of the first time we climbed a winding road to Monte Alban more than 30 years ago; we virtually had the entire site to ourselves. An archaeologist and helpers were working on the uppermost plaza of Atzompa, where photography currently is forbidden.
With construction begun around the year 650, Atzompa was a satellite suburb of Monte Alban. Its equally lofty location with commanding views stretching across both the valley of Oaxaca and that of Etla offered additional security for Monte Alban.
In addition to ceremonial ball courts, including the largest one found in the region of Monte Alban, the site has remains of residential quarters for members of the upper class. The terraced hillside created an opportunity for several intimate groupings of buildings around central plazas and courtyards. A quarry atop the hill provided a convenient supply of building materials.
Evidence suggests the city was abandoned around the year 900.
Atzompa is a mere 20 minutes by cab from the center of Oaxaca. The posted entry fee is 10 pesos, well under a single dollar. But the guard at the gate required only our names, no pesos.