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Dainzú, an archaeological site located 12 miles east of Oaxaca City, near the village of Macuilxóchitl, in Oaxaca, Mexico. Located on the eastern side and at the base of a large, loaf-shaped mountain spur rising from the floor of the Valley of Oaxaca, Dainzú was excavated by Ignacio Bernal in the 1960s. Although the excavated remains are referred to as Dainzú and date from around the time of Jesus Christ, they actually are part of the site of Macuilxóchitl, which has both earlier and later occupations. The most spectacular of the excavated remains are some fifty carved stone slabs that form the vertical walls of a probable temple, called Building A, and are placed on both sides of the temple's stairway. Thought to represent ball players, many of the individuals portrayed on the slabs are attired in helmets and protective gear. They are shown in action and in dynamic positions with spherical objects (perhaps balls) in their hands. Most of the players are facing right, toward an important individual who faces them and stands on what is probably the top of a hill. Among the slabs depicting ball players are slabs carved with persons who may be priests, judging from their attire. Some scholars suggest that the carved stones form a ritual scene of calendrical significance associated with the ballgame. Others suggest that a battle scene is represented and that the individuals portrayed are soldiers. Down the slope from Building A are residences of the elite, one of which contains an elaborate tomb with a carved jaguar on its facade. A ball court, similar to those of Yagul and Monte Albán, lies some distance away. It dates to the Postclassic period (ca.ce 900–1521), however, and therefore was built about 1,000 years after the stones were carved. Dainzú is important because the carved stones represent a unique style in the Valley of Oaxaca.

See alsoArchaeology; Ball Game, Pre-Columbian.


Ignacio Bernal and Andy Seuffert, The Ballplayers of Dainzú, translated by Carolyn B. Czitrom (1979).

George Kubler, Art and Architecture of Ancient America, 3d ed. (1984), pp. 160-161.

Marcus Winter, Oaxaca: The Archaeological Record (1989), pp. 55-56, 103-104.

Additional Bibliography

Bernal, Ignacio, and Arturo Oliveros. Exploraciones arqueológicas en Dainzú, Oaxaca. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1988.

Marcus, Joyce, and Kent V. Flannery. Zapotec Civilization: How Urban Society Evolved in Mexico's Oaxaca Valley. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Newsome, Elizabeth A., and Heather S. Orr. The "Bundle" Altars of Copán: A New Perspective on Their Meaning and Archaeological Contexts. Washington, DC: Center for Ancient American Studies, 2003.

                                       Michael D. Lind