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The Maya Ballgame

The Maya Ballgame

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The Maya Ballgame

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  1. Take general notes on the subject matter. Don’t copy everything. The Maya Ballgame CHW-3M1

  2. Mesoamerican Ballgame • Exhibit in the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2002 • “The Sport of Life and Death” • Ballgame: sport, politics, and ritual

  3. Ball Game • First ball court ~1400 B.C. (Pacific Coast of modern Chiapas, Mexico) • First rubber balls from the spring El Manatí (Gulf Coast)

  4. Religion: The Ball Game • Mayans inherited a ball game from the Olmecs that was an important part of Mayan political and religious festivals • High-ranking captives were forced to play the game for their very lives • The losers became sacrificial victims and faced torture and execution immediately following the match • Object of the game was to propel an 8 inch ball of solid baked rubber through a ring or onto a marker without using your hands

  5. Pok-a-tok (Ball Game)

  6. Maya ballgame • The ball court was an integral part of the ceremonial centers • Stone buildings • Two parallel structures • (I-shaped playing alley) • Sloping walls • Some ball courts have end zones (I-shape) • Target: ball court ring, upright post, or flat markers

  7. Rules • Two teams played each other • Sometimes only two men • (e.g. two kings or a king and a captive) • Headdresses identified teams • Balls bounced back from the side walls • Scoring: Rubber ball had to hit a target

  8. Ballcourt Markers Ballcourt goal, Chichén Itzá

  9. Copan Ball court II-B Center Marker

  10. Ball court at Chichen Itza

  11. Mayan Ball Court

  12. Ball Court Ballcourt at Monte Alban

  13. Protective gear • Solid rubber balls are heavy! • Equipment: • knee pad (only on one knee) • hip yoke • breast shield • Made of leather Ceramic figurine from Jaina

  14. An elite affair • Ballgame very important to the Maya kings and nobles • Titles: pitsal “ballplayer” • Ballgame appears often in Maya art • Social prestige and probably manly honor • Likened to the hunt of deer

  15. Players Monument With Decapitated Ballplayer, Early Postclassic Period, Veracruz, c. A.D. 900-1200 Ballplayer Wearing Deer Headdress, Late Classic Period, Maya, A.D. 700-900

  16. Political ends • Political landscape of the Maya: competing city states • Ballgame as means of competition among nobles • Emblematic teams for each site • Substitute for war? • Sacrifice of war captives in set-up games

  17. Sacrifice • Sacrifice of captives • Rolling them into a ‘ball’ • Tossing them down a stairway to fall to their death • Stairways as ‘one-sided ball court’

  18. Sacrifice of the Player One of a series of murals from the South Ballcourt at El Tajin, showing the sacrifice of a ballplayer.

  19. War Captive Tikal Altar 8

  20. GAME Decapitation scene at a ball court

  21. Not only a game … • Ballgame was accompanied by wagering • Huge crowds attended

  22. Modern Survivors • The ballgame is still played today • 3500 years later! • Rural areas of Mexico • Several variants Modern Ulama

  23. Not one but many ballgames • Several ballgame variants: • Hip-ball • Stick-ball • Hand-ball • Variants in different regions and different time periods • Targets vary: rings, posts, markers, etc.

  24. Mythological and Religious Aspects

  25. Sacrifice • Was the winner or looser of a ballgame sacrificed? – We don’t know • Ritual embedding of the ballgame: • Skulls inside the rubber balls • Sacrifice, decapitation

  26. Ballgame and creation • Ballgames commemorate ballgames that took place at the time of creation • Sacrifice/death and creation/life as two sides that balance each other for the Maya

  27. Gods • The Maya thought their deities and the netherworld very much as mirror images of earth and humans • Ball playing gods • Recall Hero Twins story

  28. Ballgame & Underworld • The ballgame was thought to connect to the underworld • Entering the underworld through the ball court cleft (or caves, or water surfaces) • Ball court as transitional zone • Ball court as ’ohl “portal” • Transitional persons like dwarfs as ballplayers Palenque “dwarf” figurine

  29. Gods and Ancestors • Maya concept of person • Rulers had the capability to morph themselves, go through the portal, and return • Ballgame as means of communication with ancestors and gods • Other means: blood sacrifice

  30. Ballgame in Codices http://www.ulama.freehomepage.com/

  31. Go to this website to learn more about Mayan ball games. http://www.ballgame.org

  32. Watch a Ballgame http://www.ballgame.org/sub_section.asp?section=3&sub_section=1