March 9, 2009--When it comes to pre-Columbian civilizations, the Aztec and Maya--known for their spectacular pyramids and temples, hieroglyphic writing systems and violent rituals--often overshadow the Zapotec, their less familiar counterparts in southern Mexico. But the Zapotec also played a vital role in ancient Mesoamerica.
Archaeologists Gary Feinman and Linda Nicholas have been peeling back layers of everyday life in El Palmillo, a Zapotec center that thrived in the Valley of Oaxaca from about A.D. 200 to 900.
Among their finds: an urn (pictured) showing a representation of Cocijo, the all-important rain god. His prominent nose ornament signifies high status.