However, what makes Mitla unique among Mesoamerican sites is the elaborate and intricate mosaic fretwork and geometric designs that cover tombs, panels, friezes and even entire walls. These mosaics are made with small, finely cut and polished stone pieces which have been fitted together without the use of mortar.
Site of a Pre-Columbian Zapotec and Mixtec city in the eastern arm of the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. Excavations have revealed that Mitla was a small Zapotec town around AD 400. Mixtec rule began c. AD 1000, when the city became a royal burial centre, but even then most of the population was still probably Zapotec. Mitla (Nahuatl: ‘Arrow place’, a corruption of ‘Miquitla’, ‘Death place’, which was a rough translation of Zapotec ‘Lyobaa’, ‘Inside-tomb’) comprises groups of surviving palaces and platforms that are a late part of the ancient community, most of which lies under the modern town. The palaces for which it is known were probably built during the 14th century AD, when Mixtec rulers dominated the Valley of Oaxaca and many Zapotecs had migrated east to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.