Sunday, April 15, 2012

3.000 Year Old Mayan Ballgame

In high school, I made a presentation about games in ancient cultures. One game that I was very interested in was a 3.000 year old ballgame played by the Maya's and the Aztecs. People have different opinions about the characteristics of the game and its meaning, but there is evidence that this game existed, because only in Mexico, 600 playing fields have been discovered by archeologs. A lot of information about the ballgame is suggestive, and that's the reason why people hold different opinions about character of the game and the meaning of the game. In this blog, I will tell something about why and how the Maya's played this ballgame. The game was played with two teams, each of 5 persons, who played with a heavy, rubber, ball. The ball was supposed to be heavy, in order to injure one another.  The goal was to throw the ball through one of two stone rings that were hanging on the walls. The players were not allowed to touch the ball with their hands, and another important rule was that the ball couldn't touch the ground. The players were allowed to wear protected clothes, but the game was still very dangerous. 

Chichén Itzá ring One of the Chichén Itzá rings

The ballgame was not just a sport, but the game also had a religious meaning, the players imitated an old mythe through their play.  I think it is interesting to see how 3.000 years ago, people already played sports that are not even that different from modern sports. It also shows how important sports and games are for people. Even though the reasons to play sports and games may differ (not many sports today have a religious meaning), I think that people will always have the drive to compete and to be the best and therefore, they will always play sports and games and and that is why I think people will keep inventing new games. 

Even today, centuries later, in certain areas in Mexico people still play variants of the 3.000 year old ballgame. I found a movie on youtube that shows how the game is played (indoors) today:

What do you think of the Mayan ballgame? Isn't it fascinating that people still play this game in Mexico?


  1. I really like this post. I'm in an Anthro/Archeology class right now about Maya, Aztecs, and Incas. I noticed how in the beginning of your post you described how archeologists learned about this sport and that there isn't consensus on how it works. I find this to be true in every aspect of Archeology that I learn about. In my opinion, Archeology itself is a bit of a game. They're always excavating and trying to put historical puzzles together. At the same time, there's constantly colleagues who disagree and other opinions whom you have to work with and against. So in parallel with this highly competitive Mayan ballgame, the archeologists that worked to discover it were (and are playing) a competitive game. Thanks for writing about something so interesting and multifaceted!

  2. Games are at the heart and soul of nearly every society. From African tribes in the Southern Hemisphere to Nordics in the Northern Hemisphere, each society has some sort of aspect that is game-like. People naturally have a competitive drive and can express their superiority through sports. The Ancient Mayan old sport is a tradition that should continue to be preserved. It serves as a starting point for modern-day sports. The competitive drive of two teams competing against each other in a combative setting. While the Mayans probably had more violence than modern-day American football, both of the games had a strict set of rules restricting people from certain actions.