Dainzu Archaeological Site
Dainzu (in Zapotec, “Hill of the Organ Cactus,” 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily), about six miles (nine km) east of El Tule, spreads over an approximate half mile square, consisting of a partly restored ceremonial center surrounded by clusters of unexcavated mounds. Beyond that, on the west side, a stream runs through fields, which at Dainzu’s apex (around A.D. 300) supported a town of about 1,000 inhabitants.
The major excavation, at the foot of the hill about a hundred yards south of the parking lot, reveals more than 30 bas-reliefs of ball players draped with leather head, arm, and torso protectors. Downhill, to the west, lies the partly reconstructed complex of courtyards, platforms, and stairways.
The northernmost of these was excavated to reveal a tomb, with a carved door supporting a jaguar head on the lintel and arms—note the claws extending down along the stone doorjambs. The jaguar’s face, with a pair of curious vampire teeth and curly nostrils, appears so batlike that some investigators have speculated that it may represent a composite jaguar-bat god.
A couple of hundred yards diagonally southwest you’ll find the ball court running east–west in the characteristic I-shaped layout, with a pair of “scoring” niches at each end and flanked by a pair of stone-block grandstand-like seats. Actually, archaeologists know that these were not seats, because the blocks were once stuccoed over, forming a pair of smooth inclined planes (probably used for glancing shots) flanking the central playing area.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition