Archaeological investigations at three Formative period sites near San Martín Tilcajete in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, have recovered a sequence of temples. The temples span the period when the Zapotec state emerged with its capital at Monte Albán during the Late Monte Albán I phase (300–100 bc), coinciding with Monte Albán's conquest of neighbouring regions. Zapotec rituals of sanctification practised in pre-state times may have been affected by Monte Albán's military expansionism. The historically documented case of military expansion and political unification of the Hawaiian islands by the paramount, Kamehameha, shows similarities in the adoption of ideology and religious institutions. Among them are the establishment of standardized temples and the ascendance of a militaristic ideology and ritual order attuned to the early state rulers' coercive authority.