El Palmillo Archives

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Oaxaca, Mexico
© L. Nicholas
Excavating the Palace

From 1999 - 2008, Dr. Feinman and Linda Nicholas conducted excavations at El Palmillo, one of the many outlying settlements originally under the domain of Monte Albán, the Zapotec capital city. Over time, El Palmillo’s inhabitants established a large residential center that ultimately gained a degree of autonomy from Monte Albán.

Excavations at the site revealed a terraced, cosmopolitan city with a variety of public spaces and residences, including plazas, palaces, and even a ballcourt. The many years of explorations at El Palmillo have helped clarify the factors that led to the gradual breakdown of the centralized Zapotec state—and revealed the social and economic organization in southern Mexico that was first encountered by the Spanish.

To learn more, check out the online expedition archives from each season at El Palmillo:

2008 Season: Catch the final excavation season and view photos of the team's discovery of a rare, unlooted tomb beneath beneath the floor of a palace at El Palmillo!

2007 Season: Learn more about life and labwork in the field, and follow along as the team uncovers a ballpark where the Zapotec played an ancient Mesoamerican game of life or death.

2006 Season: Discover the effects of fire and rain on a field site, and see how the team teases apart different archaeological layers to understand the contruction of Zapotec households over time.

2005 Season: Find out more about the age and evolution of the elaborate palace at El Palmillo as the team continues its exploration of this structure.

2004 Season: Check out a sweat bath and other interesting features found within an elaborate Zapotec household.

2003 Season: Witness the team's discovery of a tomb containing three burials and several fabulous offerings!

2002 Season: Examine findings from the first year that EXPEDITIONS: at The Field Museum followed Dr. Feinman, and learn more about the burial customs of the ancient Zapotec.