A Mesoamerican ballcourt is a large masonry structure of a type used in Mesoamerica for over 2,700 years to play the Mesoamerican ballgame, particularly the hip-ball version of the ballgame. [ when? ] Although there is a tremendous variation in size, in general all ballcourts are the same shape: a long narrow alley flanked by two walls with horizontal, vertical, and sloping faces. Although the alleys in early ballcourts were open-ended, later ballcourts had enclosed end-zones, giving the structure an
Masonry is the building of structures from individual units, which are often laid in and bound together by mortar; the term masonry can also refer to the units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, building stone such as marble, granite, and limestone, cast stone, concrete block, glass block, and adobe. Masonry is generally a highly durable form of construction. However, the materials used, the quality of the mortar and workmanship, and the pattern in which the units are assembled can substantially affect the durability of the overall masonry construction. A person who constructs masonry is called a mason or bricklayer. These are both classified as construction trades.
Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, and within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people. It is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, and the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico (Caral-Supe) in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region.
The Mesoamerican ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played since 1400 B.C. by the pre-Columbian people of Ancient Mesoamerica. The sport had different versions in different places during the millennia, and a newer more modern version of the game, ulama, is still played in a few places by the indigenous population.
Ballcourts were also used for functions other than, or in addition to, ballgames. Ceramics from western Mexico show ballcourts being used for other sporting endeavours, including what appears to be a wrestling match.It is also known from archaeological excavations that ballcourts were the sites of sumptuous feasts, although whether these were conducted in the context of the ballgame or as another event entirely is not as yet known. The siting of the most prominent ballcourts within the sacred precincts of cities and towns, as well as the votive deposits found buried there, demonstrates that the ballcourt were places of spectacle and ritual.
Although ballcourts are found within most Mesoamerican sites, they are not equally distributed across time or geography. For example, the Late Classic site of El Tajin, the largest city of the ballgame-obsessed Classic Veracruz culture, has at least 18 ballcourts while Cantona, a nearby contemporaneous site, sets the record with 24. In contrast, Northern Chiapasand the northern Maya Lowlands have relatively few, and ballcourts are conspicuously absent at some major sites, including Teotihuacan, Bonampak, and Tortuguero.
Mesoamerican chronology divides the history of prehispanic Mesoamerica into several periods: the Paleo-Indian, the Archaic, the Preclassic or Formative, the Classic (250–900CE), and the Postclassic, Colonial (1521–1821), and Postcolonial (1821–present). The periodization of Mesoamerica is based on archaeological, ethnohistorical, and modern cultural anthropology research. The endeavor to create cultural histories of Mesoamerica dates to the early twentieth century, with ongoing work by archeologists, ethnohistorians, historians, and cultural anthropologists.
Classic Veracruz culture refers to a cultural area in the north and central areas of the present-day Mexican state of Veracruz, a culture that existed from roughly 100 to 1000 CE, or during the Classic era.
Chiapas, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Chiapas, is one of the 31 states that along with the federal district of Mexico City make up the 32 federal entities of Mexico. It is divided into 124 municipalities as of September 2017 and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Other important population centers in Chiapas include Ocosingo, Tapachula, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Comitán and Arriaga. It is the southernmost state in Mexico. It is located in Southeastern Mexico, and it borders the states of Oaxaca to the west, Veracruz to the northwest and Tabasco to the north, and by the Petén, Quiché, Huehuetenango and San Marcos departments of Guatemala to the east and southeast. Chiapas has a coastline along the Pacific Ocean to the south.
It is thought that ballcourts are an indication of decentralization of political and economic power: areas with a strong centralized state, such as the Aztec Empire, have relatively few ballcourts while areas with smaller competing polities have many.At Cantona, for example, the extraordinary number of ballcourts is likely due to the many and diverse cultures residing there under a relatively weak state.
In international law, a sovereign state, sovereign country, or simply state, is a nonphysical juridical entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood that a sovereign state is neither dependent on nor subjected to any other power or state.
Ballcourts vary considerably in size. One of the smallest, at Tikal site, is only one-sixth the size of the Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza. Despite the variation in size, ballcourts' playing alleys are generally the same shape, with an average length-to-width ratio of 4-to-1, although some regional variation is found: Central Mexico, for example, has slightly longer playing alleys, and the Maya Northern Lowlands slightly wider.
Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, which was likely to have been called Yax Mutal, found in a rainforest in Guatemala. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in what is now northern Guatemala. Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The following is a comparison of the size of the playing alleys for several well-known ballcourts.
|Site||Culture||length (meters)||width (meters)||length-to-width ratio|
|El Tajin||Classic Veracruz||126||25||5.1|
|Chichen Itza (Grand Ballcourt)||Maya||96||30.4||3.2|
|Tikal (Small ceremonial)||Maya||16||5||3.2|
The earliest ballcourts were doubtless temporary marked off areas of compacted soil much like those used to play the modern ulama game, the Mesoamerican ballgame's descendant.
Paso de la Amada, Soconusco, along the Pacific coast boasts the oldest ballcourt yet identified, dated to approximately 1400 BC. 80 m × 8 m (262 ft × 26 ft) flat playing alley defined by two flanking earthen mounds with "benches" running along their length.This narrow ballcourt has an
By the Early Classic, ballcourt designs began to feature an additional pair of mounds set some distance beyond the ends of the alley as if to keep errant balls from rolling too far away. By the Terminal Classic, the end zones of many ballcourts were enclosed, creating the well-known
The evolution of the ballcourt is, of course, more complex than the foregoing suggests, and with over 1300 known ballcourts, there are exceptions to any generalization.
Unlike the compacted earth of the playing alley, the side walls of the formal ballcourts were lined with stone blocks. These walls featured 3 or more horizontal and sloping surfaces. Vertical surfaces are less common, but they begin to replace the sloping apron during the Classic era, and are a feature of several of the largest and best-known ballcourts, including the Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza and the North and South Ballcourts at El Tajin. There the vertical surfaces were covered with elaborate reliefs showing scenes, particularly sacrificial scenes, related to the ballgame.
Most prominent ballcourts were part of their town or city's central monumental precinct and as such they share the orientation of pyramids and other structures there. Since many Mesoamerican cities and towns were oriented to a few degrees east of north (roughly 15° east of north),it is not surprising to find that in the Valley of Oaxaca, for example, ballcourt orientations also tend to be a few degrees east of north, or at right angles to that.
Other than this general trend, no consistent orientation of ballcourts throughout Mesoamerica has been found,although some patterns do emerge at the regional level. In the Cotzumalhuapa region, for example, open-ended ballcourts with a north-south orientation were earlier than east-west enclosed courts.
Stone rings, tenoned into the wall at mid-court, appeared in the Terminal Classic era. Actually sending a ball through the ring must have been a rare occurrence. The players could not use their hands or even feet to guide the ball. Moreover, the rings were only slightly larger than the ball itself and were located at no small distance from the playing alley. At Chichen Itza, for example, they were set 6 meters above the alley, while at Xochicalco they set at the top of an 11-meter-wide apron, 3 meters above the playing alley (see lead photo).
As shown on Aztec codices, court markers were also used on many ballcourts to establish the dividing line between teams – one set into the playing alley floor at exact mid-court, the other two placed against each side wall. However, such placement is not universal. Two ancient ceramic ballcourt models recovered from western Mexico show the three markers placed length-wise along the court: one (again) at exact mid-court with the remaining pair set midway between the walls at either end of the playing alley.The ballcourt markers at Copan are also arranged in this manner. The ballcourt at Monte Alban, meanwhile, has only one court marker, placed at the exact center of the court.
These sunken court markers are almost invariably round and usually decorated with ballgame-related scenes or iconography. Other markers were set into ballcourt walls.Many researchers have also proposed that above-ground, moveable objects, for example stone hachas , were also used as court markers.
Various sculptures, stelae, and other stonework were also important components of the ballcourt. At the ballcourt at Tonina, for example, 6 sculptures of prone captives overhang the apron, a pair at mid-court and a pair at each of the ends of the cornice. Unfortunately, rings, markers and sculptures are more portable and more prone to removal or destruction than the permanent ballcourt infrastructure, and at some ballcourts these features have been lost forever.
Many – or even most – Maya depictions of ballgame play are shown against a backdrop of stairs.Conversely, Maya staircases will occasionally feature reliefs of ballgame scenes or ballgame-related glyphs on their risers. The most famous of these are the Hieroglyphic Stairs at Structure 33 in Yaxchilan, where 11 of the 13 risers feature ballgame-related scenes. In these scenes, it appears as if the players were actually playing the ball against the stairs in what would seem to be a Maya version of stoop ball.
The association of stairs and the ballgame is not well understood. Linda Schele and Mary Miller propose that the depictions record historic events and in particular record a "form of play ... distinct from the game conducted on the courts", one that "probably followed immediately after[ward] on steps adjacent to the ballcourts".Other researchers are skeptical. Marvin Cohodas, for example, proposes that the "stairs" are instead stepped platforms associated with human sacrifice, while Carolyn Tate views the Yaxchilan stair scenes as "the Underworld segment of a cosmogram".
Qʼuqʼumatz was a deity of the Postclassic Kʼicheʼ Maya. Qʼuqʼumatz was the Feathered Serpent divinity of the Popol Vuh who created humanity together with the god Tepeu. Qʼuqʼumatz is considered to be the rough equivalent of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, and also of Kukulkan of the Yucatec Maya tradition. It is likely that the feathered serpent deity was borrowed from one of these two peoples and blended with other deities to provide the god Qʼuqʼumatz that the Kʼicheʼ worshipped. Qʼuqʼumatz may have had his origin in the Valley of Mexico; some scholars have equated the deity with the Aztec deity Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, who was also a creator god. Qʼuqʼumatz may originally have been the same god as Tohil, the Kʼicheʼ sun god who also had attributes of the feathered serpent, but they later diverged and each deity came to have a separate priesthood.
In Maya mythology, Camazotz was a bat god. Camazotz means "death bat" in the Kʼicheʼ language. In Mesoamerica the bat was associated with night, death, and sacrifice.
Yaxchilan is an ancient Maya city located on the bank of the Usumacinta River in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. In the Late Classic Period Yaxchilan was one of the most powerful Maya states along the course of the Usumacinta River, with Piedras Negras as its major rival. Architectural styles in subordinate sites in the Usumacinta region demonstrate clear differences that mark a clear boundary between the two kingdoms.
Ulama is a ball game played in a few communities in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Descended from the Aztec version of the Mesoamerican ballgame, the game is one of the oldest continuously played sports in the world and is notable for the fact that it is the oldest known game using a rubber ball.
Acaxee was a tribe or group of tribes in the Sierra Madre Occidental in eastern Sinaloa and NW Durango. They spoke a Tarachatitian language in the Southern Uto-Aztecan language family. Their culture was based on horticulture and the exploitation of wild animal and plant life. They are now extinct as an identifiable ethnic group.
Bloodletting was the ritualized self-cutting or piercing of an individual's body that served a number of ideological and cultural functions within ancient Mesoamerican societies, in particular the Maya. When performed by ruling elites, the act of bloodletting was crucial to the maintenance of sociocultural and political structure. Bound within the Mesoamerican belief systems, bloodletting was used as a tool to legitimize the ruling lineage's socio-political position and, when enacted, was important to the perceived well-being of a given society or settlement.
Tazumal is a pre-Columbian Maya archeological site in Chalchuapa, El Salvador. Tazumal is an architectural complex within the larger area of the ancient Mesoamerican city of Chalchuapa, in western El Salvador. The Tazumal group is located in the southern portion of the Chalchuapa archaeological zone. Archaeologist Stanley Boggs excavated and restored the Tazumal complex during the 1940s and 1950s.
Altar de Sacrificios is a ceremonial center and archaeological site of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, situated near the confluence of the Pasión and Salinas Rivers, in the present-day department of Petén, Guatemala. Along with Seibal and Dos Pilas, Altar de Sacrificios is one of the better-known and most intensively-excavated sites in the region, although the site itself does not seem to have been a major political force in the Late Classic period.
Pelota mixteca is a team sport similar to a net-less tennis game. The players wear sturdy, elaborately decorated gloves affixed to a heavy flat striking surface, using them to strike a small solid ball. The game has roots extending back hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years.
Ancient Mesoamericans were the first people to invent rubber balls, sometime before 1600 BCE, and used them in a variety of roles. The Mesoamerican ballgame, for example, employed various sizes of solid rubber balls and balls were burned as offerings in temples, buried in votive deposits, and laid in sacred bogs and cenotes.
The Epi-Olmec culture was a cultural area in the central region of the present-day Mexican state of Veracruz. Concentrated in the Papaloapan River basin, a culture that existed during the Late Formative period, from roughly 300 BCE to roughly 250 CE. Epi-Olmec was a successor culture to the Olmec, hence the prefix "epi-" or "post-". Although Epi-Olmec did not attain the far-reaching achievements of that earlier culture, it did realize, with its sophisticated calendrics and writing system, a level of cultural complexity unknown to the Olmecs.
Yagul is an archaeological site and former city-state associated with the Zapotec civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The site was declared one of the country's four Natural Monuments on 13 October 1998. The site is also known locally as Pueblo Viejo and was occupied at the time of the Spanish Conquest. After the Conquest the population was relocated to the nearby modern town of Tlacolula where their descendants still live.
Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people of the Terminal Classic period. The archaeological site is located in Tinúm Municipality, Yucatán State, Mexico.
Bilbao is a Mesoamerican archaeological site about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the modern town of Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa in the Escuintla department of Guatemala. The site lies among sugar plantations on the Pacific coastal plain and its principal phase of occupation is dated to the Classic Period. Bilbao was a major centre belonging to the Cotzumalhuapa culture with its main occupation dating to the Late Classic. Bilbao is the former name of the plantation on which the site lies and from which it has derived its name.
During the pre-Columbian era, human sacrifice in Maya culture was the ritual offering of nourishment to the gods. Blood was viewed as a potent source of nourishment for the Maya deities, and the sacrifice of a living creature was a powerful blood offering. By extension, the sacrifice of a human life was the ultimate offering of blood to the gods, and the most important Maya rituals culminated in human sacrifice. Generally only high status prisoners of war were sacrificed, with lower status captives being used for labour.
Chutixtiox is an archaeological site of the ancient Maya civilization near Sacapulas, in the Quiché department of modern Guatemala. The site was excavated during the 20th century by A. Ledyard Smith. Ceramic evidence excavated at the site suggests a close relationship with the K'iche' capital of Q'umarkaj. Chutixtiox may have been a settlement in a polity that included the nearby sites of Chutinamit and Xolpacol.
Guaytán is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization in the municipality of San Agustín Acasaguastlán, in the department of El Progreso, in Guatemala. It is the most important pre-Columbian archaeological site of the middle drainage of the Motagua River.