get the ball through here

Museo de America

The Legendary Ball Game

Madrid for kids

The Aztecs and the Mayans both had versions of this ritual game.  And just like Grand Final Matches now, the Aztec and Mayan games attracted huge crowds who cheered and jeered.  The Ball court itself was a magical place, believed to stand over the entrance to the underworld.  The game was like a reenactment of the contest between the Gods of Fertility and Death and may have had agricultural or militaristic purposes.  The players got to dress as the Gods in what was a sacrificial game.  Players were often so badly bruised they had to have the injuries 'bled'. The referee used a conch shell and the crowd shook maracas, feasted, listened to bands.  Dignitaries came when games were played between cities.  A little like the World Cup.  

This vessel is from the southern Maya Lowlands.  It has information on the equipment required for the game, including leg protection, the padded white waist yoke, and upper-body costume.  This is an example of pre-game ceremonial garb,

It is believed the Aztec version of the game was a hand and volley ball combination.  The two teams faced each other on their side of the centre line and sent the ball backwards and forwards.  Players could use hips, knees and buttocks to hit the ball and some versions may have allowed the elbows and forearms to be used.  When the ball hit the ground the other side gained a point.  Players had to wear thick pads to protect them from the heavy and hard ball which weighed 10lbs [ 4.5 kilos].  They wore belts [yokes] which sometimes had wooden or stone pieces attached to keep the ball in play.  The ball could be hit off the wall and if it passed through one of the stone hoops the game was over.

It is believed that the Olmecs invented the game.  The Olmec, whose name means 'rubber people' in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, were an ancient Pre-Columbian people living in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico.  A dozen rubber balls dating to 1600 BCE or earlier have been found in El Manati.  Rubber!...  Were would we be with out it!

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