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Mesoamerican Ball Game

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Mesoamerican Ball Games
Ball Court players all decked out in headdress and protective gear.

Ball Court players all decked out in headdress and protective gear.

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Around 3500 years ago, Mesoamericans began to play organized team sports centered on a bouncing rubber ball. The ball court was a conspicuous feature of the city centers in classical Mesoamerica. Ball games, handball, stickball, hipball, kickball, and trickball, were well attended. They offered wealth and prestige to the winners, but losers sometimes paid the ultimate price -- as a sacrifice to their gods. Even winners might be injured because the ball was heavy and dangerous, as Spanish conquerors, amazed by the speed and movement of the rubber balls, wrote. So, while the spectators wore almost nothing against the heat of the area -- just turbans and loin cloths/skirts, the players wore elaborate protective gear as well as a "yoke" around the waist to propel the ball.

It is unclear whether or not women played in the ball games.

"Sports, Gambling, and Government: America's First Social Compact?" Warren D. Hill and John E. Clark American Anthropologist, Vol. 103, No. 2 (Jun., 2001).

The photo shows ball court players all decked out in headdress and protective gear.

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