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Oaxaca, Mexico

The name of the state comes from the name of its capital city, Oaxaca. This name comes from the Nahuatl word "Huaxyacac",[9] which refers to a tree called a "guaje" (Leucaena leucocephala), found in area around the capital city. The name was originally applied to the Valley of Oaxaca by Nahuatl speaking Aztecs and passed on to the Spanish when they were accompanied by Aztecs in the conquest of the Oaxaca area. The modern state was created in 1824, and the state seal was designed by Alfredo Canseco Feraud and approved by the government of Eduardo Vasconcelos.[10]

Pre-historic and pre-Hispanic period
Most of what is known about pre-historic Oaxaca comes from archeological work in the Central Valleys region. Evidence of human habitation dating back to about 11,000 years BCE has been found in the Guilá Naquitz cave near the town of Mitla. This area was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010 in recognition for the "earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent, while corn cob fragments from the same cave are said to be the earliest documented evidence for the domestication of maize." More finds of nomadic peoples date back to about 5000 BCE, with some evidence of the beginning of agriculture. By 2000 BCE, agriculture had been established in the Central Valleys region of the state, with sedentary villages.[11] The diet developed around this time would remain until the Spanish Conquest, consisting primarily of harvested corn, beans, chocolate, tomatoes, chili peppers, squash and gourds. Meat was generally hunted and included tepescuintle, turkey, deer, peccary, armadillo and iguana.

The oldest known major settlements, such as Yanhuitlán and Laguna Zope are located in this area as well. The latter settlement is known for its small figures called "pretty women" or "baby face." Between 1200 and 900 BCE, pottery was being produced in the area as well. This pottery has been linked with similar work done in La Victoria, Guatemala. Other important settlements from the same time period include Tierras Largas, San José Mogote and Guadalupe, whose ceramics show Olmec influence.[11] The major native linguistic family, Oto-Manguean, is thought to have been spoken in northern Oaxaca around 4400 BCE and to have evolved into nine distinct branches by 1500 BCE

Historic events in Oaxaca as far back as the 12th century are described in pictographic codices painted by Zapotecs and Mixtecs in the beginning of the colonial period, but outside of the information that can be obtained through their study, little historical information from pre-colonial Oaxaca exist, and our knowledge of this period relies largely on archaeological remains.[13] By 500 BCE, the central valleys of Oaxaca were mostly inhabited by the Zapotecs, with the Mixtecs on the western side. These two groups were often in conflict throughout the pre-Hispanic period.[14] Archeological evidence indicates that between 750 and 1521, there may have been population peaks of as high as 2.5 million.