Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Pamela L. Geller
The Zapotec are an ethnic group that has long inhabited modern Oaxaca in Mexico. The ancient Zapotec produced one of Mesoamerica's earliest civilizations, replete with cities, monumental architecture, writing and calendrical systems, accomplished artisans, complex sociopolitical organization, and far-reaching economic ties. Contemporary Zapotec peoples refer to their ancestors as binni gula'sa' (or Ben ‘Zaa ), the Cloud People, and in doing so stress the vibrant role of the past in their present-day lives. Similarly, binni sa , or binni za , which translates as “the type of people we are,” is also used. This term offers a desirable alternative to Zapotec , which is a Nahuatl-derived word and thus an externally imposed category. Predicated upon linguistic evidence, scholars have argued that the Zapotec and Mixtec, another ethnic group of Mexico, split from one another as early as 3700 BC. By approximately 1500 BC, the Zapotec most likely occupied areas in ...