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Construction of the buildings at Mitla is believed to have started around 450 AD, but the area is thought to have been inhabited as early as 900 BC. Building expansion was still going on when the Spanish conquerors came to Mitla in search of gold. In the mid-1550s, Spanish clergy ordered the destruction of most of the site and re-used many of the stones to construct a church on the site of the original Zapotec temple.
Many of the intricate designs on the facades of the surviving buildings are still seen in Zapotec textiles. The Spaniards called these motifs 'grecas' after Greek patterns that they thought were similar. Rather than being carved into one large rock, the patterns are made up of intricately interlocking stones. These small pieces were not useful to the Spanish as building materials and this may be why they survived intact.
Details of mosaic interlocked designs on the exteriors of the remaining ruins
The church at Mitla seen from a rear courtyard that was part of the original Zapotec site
This detail of Zapotec hieroglyphic writing done using iron oxide pigment can be seen on the exterior wall of the ruins at Mitla
Porfirio stands inside the grand hall of columns in the largest remaining ruin called "the palace" at Mitla
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