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Maya Ball Court, Chichén Itzá


Ancient Mesoamerican players would have played a ball game using a rubber ball on a masonry field in an I-shaped court. Hoops on either side are visible.
Maya Ball Court, Chichén Itzá

Maya Ball Court, Chichén Itzá

Ruben Charles
We don't know the details of the ancient ball game played in ancient Mesoamerica. The rings or hoops on either side are thought to be a late innovation. Models found of the game show what appear to be two teams of three. The ball's material is known, but not its size although it probably weighed from between a half and 7 kg. Some depictions of it show it improbably large. Presumably, it could be no bigger than the inside perimeter of the hoops. At least one ball contained a human skull.

A ball game area like this would have been found in each of the cities of the Maya. Like today, it would have been a major local expenditure, but was probably also very popular. Clay models from western Mexico show the immediate viewing area crowded, with entire families in attendance, sitting on the ledges. There are markers on the field. It appears that balls were to be kept in motion and were hit using hips, for which reason they were protected.

Women may have played the game.

"Review: Uses of Sport," by Karl A. Taube. Science, New Series, Vol. 256, No. 5059 (May 15, 1992), pp. 1064-1065.

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