c.600BC-1000AD The Zapotec occupied the city of Monte Alban and Mitla in the Oaxaca Valley, Mexico in post Olmec times. It is thought that they did not actually live in the cities, but used Mitla as the centre of religious festivals and practices, and Monte Alban as the centre of political function and power. There are no available water sources in the vicinity of Monte Alban, and its growth is limited by hills on the periphery of the city. Their reign of the city ended in 900AD when they were invaded by the Mixtec tribe, after which sections of the two cultures were slowly intermarried and integrated. The Zapotec also allied with the Aztec against the Mixtec, up until the Spanish invasion.

Many aspects of the Zapotec culture are founded on the Olmecs, using a similar calendar based on a 52 year cycle. The Zapotec also believed they were born directly from the rocks, the trees and jaguars, with no history of migration. Their numerous gods were headed by Cosijo, a rain god who was based on a combination of the Earth jaguar and the Sky serpent common to many mesoamerican cultures.

Today two groups of Zapotec remain - in Oaxaca Valley and the Isthmus of Tehuantepe- numbering around 350 000.