Origins of Civilization in Oaxaca

In the region occupied by the present-day State of Oaxaca there are traces of human habitation which date back to approximately 10,000 B.C. Around 1,600 B.C., nomadic groups settled in the first villages, around which they obtained or produced all the basic necessities of human existence. One of the oldest settlements was that of San José Mogote.

During the so-called village period, customs and life patterns grew up which have survived throughout the centuries, leaving an indelible mark on the lifestyle of the indigenous peoples who have lived in the region of the State of Oaxaca, right up to the present time. These characteristics, which are a product of the past, relate to the structure and significance of the family as a unit of production and consumption, to the development of basic technologies for the cultivation, storage, grinding and cooking of corn, and also to the way the dead are treated.

In archaeological study, activities are seen in terms of material consequences which have been preserved over time, such as burials in graves near houses, accompanied on certain occasions by offerings.

Some dead people were interred with clay figurines or objects made of obsidian, pottery, shell, jade, salt and other perishable products. Of all this great variety of materials, only the figurines were a local product; the others were obtained through a close network of regional and inter-regional exchange.

Between the years 800 and 500 B.C. a culture with regional characteristics flourished in Oaxaca; its distinguishing aspects are its production of grey clay pottery, its development of a clear social hierarchy, and its highly precise knowledge of the calendar, all of this as a prelude to a later epoch: the founding of the great city of Monte Albán.
Canadian Heritage Information Network

Oaxaca, MEXICO
© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans