Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Mayans built ball courts so they could play games

The Mesoamerican ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played for over 3000 years by the pre-Columbian peoples of Mesoamerica. The sport had different versions in different places during the millennia, and a modern version of the game, ulama, is still played in a few places by the local indigenous population. Ballcourts were public spaces used for a variety of elite cultural events and ritual activities like musical performances and festivals, and of course, the ballgame. Enclosed on two sides by stepped ramps that led to ceremonial platforms or small temples, the ball court itself was of a capital “I” shape and could be found in all but the smallest of Maya cities. In Classic Maya, the ballgame was called pitz, and the action of play was ti pitziil. The game was played with a ball roughly the size of a volleyball but made from rubber and heavier. Decapitation is particularly associated with the ballgame – severed heads are featured in much Late Classic ballgame art. There has even been speculation that the heads and skulls were used as balls.

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