The Mesoamerican ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played since 1400 BCby 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.
The rules of the game are not known, but judging from its descendant, ulama, they were probably similar to racquetball,where the aim is to keep the ball in play. The stone ballcourt goals are a late addition to the game.
In the most common theory of the game, the players struck the ball with their hips, although some versions allowed the use of forearms, rackets, bats, or handstones. The ball was made of solid rubber and weighed as much as 4 kg (9 lbs), and sizes differed greatly over time or according to the version played.
The game had important ritual aspects, and major formal ballgames were held as ritual events. Late in the history of the game, some cultures occasionally seem to have combined competitions with religious human sacrifice. The sport was also played casually for recreation by children and may have been played by women as well.
Pre-Columbian ballcourts have been found throughout Mesoamerica, as for example at Copán, as far south as modern Nicaragua, and possibly as far north as what is now the U.S. state of Arizona.These Ballcourts vary considerably in size, but all have long narrow alleys with slanted side-walls against which the balls could bounce.
The Mesoamerican ballgame is known by a wide variety of names. In English, it is often called pok-ta-pok (or pok-a-tok). This term originates from a 1932 article by Danish archaeologist Frans Blom, who adapted it from the Yucatec Maya word pokolpok. [oːlːamaˈlistɬi] ) or tlachtli ( [ˈtɬatʃtɬi] ). In Classical Maya, it was known as pitz. In modern Spanish, it is called juego de pelota maya ('Maya ballgame'), juego de pelota mesoamericano ('Mesoamerican ballgame'), or simply pelota maya ('Maya ball').In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, it was called ōllamaliztli (
It is not known precisely when or where ōllamaliztli originated, although it is likely that the game originated earlier than 1400 BCE in the low-lying tropical zones home to the rubber tree.
One candidate for the birthplace of the ballgame is the Soconusco coastal lowlands along the Pacific Ocean.Here, at Paso de la Amada, archaeologists have found the oldest ballcourt yet discovered, dated to approximately 1400 BCE.
The other major candidate is the Olmec heartland, across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec along the Gulf Coast. cm from the freshwater spring there. Five of these balls have been dated to the earliest-known occupational phase for the site, approximately 1700–1600 BCE. These rubber balls were found with other ritual offerings buried at the site, indicating that even at this early date ōllamaliztli had religious and ritual connotations. A stone "yoke" of the type frequently associated with Mesoamerican ballcourts was also reported to have been found by local villagers at the site, leaving open the distinct possibility that these rubber balls were related to the ritual ballgame, and not simply an independent form of sacrificial offering.The Aztecs referred to their Postclassic contemporaries who then inhabited the region as the Olmeca (i.e. "rubber people") since the region was strongly identified with latex production. The earliest-known rubber balls come from the sacrificial bog at El Manatí, an early Olmec-associated site located in the hinterland of the Coatzacoalcos River drainage system. Villagers, and subsequently archaeologists, have recovered a dozen balls ranging in diameter from 10 to 22
Excavations at the nearby Olmec site of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán have also uncovered a number of ballplayer figurines, radiocarbon-dated as far back as 1250–1150 BCE. A rudimentary ballcourt, dated to a later occupation at San Lorenzo, 600–400 BCE, has also been identified.
From the tropical lowlands, ōllamaliztli apparently moved into central Mexico. Starting around 1000 BCE or earlier, ballplayer figurines were interred with burials at Tlatilco and similarly styled figurines from the same period have been found at the nearby Tlapacoya site.It was about this period, as well, that the so-called Xochipala-style ballplayer figurines were crafted in Guerrero. Although no ballcourts of similar age have been found in Tlatilco or Tlapacoya, it is possible that the ballgame was indeed played in these areas, but on courts with perishable boundaries or temporary court markers.
By 300 BCE, evidence for ōllamaliztli appears throughout much of the Mesoamerican archaeological record, including ballcourts in the Central Chiapas Valley (the next oldest ballcourts discovered, after Paso de la Amada),and in the Oaxaca Valley, as well as ceramic ballgame tableaus from Western Mexico (see photo below).
As might be expected with a game played over such a long period of time by many cultures, details varied over time and place, so the Mesoamerican ballgame might be more accurately seen as a family of related games.
In general, the hip-ball version is most popularly thought of as the Mesoamerican ballgame,and researchers believe that this version was the primary—or perhaps only—version played within the masonry ballcourt. Ample archaeological evidence exists for games where the ball was struck by a wooden stick (e.g., a mural at Teotihuacan shows a game which resembles field hockey), racquets, bats and batons, handstones, and the forearm, perhaps at times in combination. Each of the various types of games had its own size of ball, specialized gear and playing field, and rules.
Games were played between two teams of players. The number of players per team could vary, between two to four.Some games were played on makeshift courts for simple recreation while others were formal spectacles on huge stone ballcourts leading to human sacrifice.
Even without human sacrifice, the game could be brutal and there were often serious injuries inflicted by the solid, heavy ball. Today's hip- ulama players are "perpetually bruised"while nearly 500 years ago Spanish chronicler Diego Durán reported that some bruises were so severe that they had to be lanced open. He also reported that players were even killed when the ball "hit them in the mouth or the stomach or the intestines".
The rules of ōllamaliztli, regardless of the version, are not known in any detail. In modern-day ulama , the game resembles a netless volleyball,with each team confined to one half of the court. In the most widespread version of ulama, the ball is hit back and forth using only the hips until one team fails to return it or the ball leaves the court.
In the Postclassic period, the Maya began placing vertical stone rings on each side of the court, the object being to pass the ball through one, an innovation that continued into the later Toltec and Aztec cultures.
In the 16th-century Aztec ballgame that the Spaniards witnessed, points were lost by a player who let the ball bounce more than twice before returning it to the other team, who let the ball go outside the boundaries of the court, or who tried and failed to pass the ball through one of the stone rings placed on each wall along the center line.According to 16th-century Aztec chronicler Motolinia, points were gained if the ball hit the opposite end wall, while the decisive victory was reserved for the team that put the ball through a ring. However, placing the ball through the ring was a rare event—the rings at Chichen Itza, for example, were set six meters off the playing field—and most games were likely won on points.
The game's paraphernalia—clothing, headdresses, gloves, all but the stone—are long gone, so knowledge on clothing relies on art—paintings and drawings, stone reliefs, and figurines—to provide evidence for pre-Columbian ballplayer clothing and gear, which varied considerably in type and quantity. Capes and masks, for example, are shown on several Dainzú reliefs, while Teotihuacan murals show men playing stick-ball in skirts.
The basic hip-game outfit consisted of a loincloth, sometimes augmented with leather hip guards. Loincloths are found on the earliest ballplayer figurines from Tlatilco, Tlapacoya, and the Olmec culture, are seen in the Weiditz drawing from 1528 (below), and, with hip guards, are the sole outfit of modern-day ulama players (above)—a span of nearly 3,000 years.
In many cultures, further protection was provided by a thick girdle, most likely of wicker or wood covered in fabric or leather. Made of perishable materials, none of these girdles have survived, although many stone "yokes" have been uncovered. Misnamed by earlier archaeologists due to its resemblance to an animal yoke, the stone yoke is thought to be too heavy for actual play and was likely used only before or after the game in ritual contexts.In addition to providing some protection from the ball, the girdle or yoke would also have helped propel the ball with more force than the hip alone. Additionally, some players wore chest protectors called palmas which were inserted into the yoke and stood upright in front of the chest.
Kneepads are seen on a variety of players from many areas and eras and are worn by forearm-ulama players today. A type of garter is also often seen, worn just below the knee or around the ankle—it is not known what function this served. Gloves appear on the purported ballplayer reliefs of Dainzú, roughly 500 BCE, as well as the Aztec players drawn by Weiditz 2,000 years later (see drawing below).Helmets (likely utilitarian) and elaborate headdresses (likely used only in ritual contexts) are also common in ballplayer depictions, headdresses being particularly prevalent on Maya painted vases or on Jaina Island figurines. Many ballplayers of the Classic era are seen with a right kneepad—no left—and a wrapped right forearm, as shown in the Maya image above.
The sizes or weights of the balls actually used in the ballgame are not known with any certainty. While several dozen ancient balls have been recovered, they were originally laid down as offerings in a sacrificial bog or spring, and there is no evidence that any of these were used in the ballgame. In fact, some of these extant votive balls were created specifically as offerings.
However, based on a review of modern-day game balls, ancient rubber balls, and other archaeological evidence, it is presumed by most researchers that the ancient hip-ball was made of a mix from one or another of the latex-producing plants found all the way from the southeastern rain forests to the northern desert. 10 and 12 in (25 and 30 cm) (measured in hand spans) and weighed 3 to 6 lb (1.4 to 2.7 kg). The ball used in the ancient handball or stick-ball game was probably slightly larger and heavier than a modern-day baseball.Most balls were made from latex sap of the lowland Castilla elastica tree. Someone discovered that by mixing latex with sap from the vine of a species of morning glory ( Calonyction aculeatum ) they could turn the slippery polymers in raw latex into a resilient rubber. The size varied between
Some Maya depictions, such as the painting above or this relief, show balls 1 m (3 ft 3 in) or more in diameter. Academic consensus is that these depictions are exaggerations or symbolic, as are, for example, the impossibly unwieldy headdresses worn in the same portrayals.
Ōllamaliztli was played within a large masonry structure. Built in a form that changed remarkably little during 2,700 years, over 1,300 Mesoamerican ballcourts have been identified, 60% in the last 20 years alone.
Across Mesoamerica, ballcourts were built and used for many generations. Although ballcourts are found within most sizable Mesoamerican ruins, they are not equally distributed across time or geography. For example, the Late Classic site of El Tajín, 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 Chiapas and the northern Maya Lowlands have relatively few, and ballcourts are conspicuously absent at some major sites, including Teotihuacan, Bonampak, and Tortuguero, although ōllamaliztli iconography has been found there.
Ancient cities with particularly fine ballcourts in good condition include Tikal, Yaxha, Copán, Coba, Iximche, Monte Albán, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Yagul, Xochicalco, Mixco Viejo, and Zaculeu.
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. Pictorial depictions often show musicians playing at ballgames, while votive deposits buried at the Main Ballcourt at Tenochtitlan contained miniature whistles, ocarinas, and drums. A pre-Columbian ceramic from western Mexico shows what appears to be a wrestling match taking place on a ballcourt.
Ōllamaliztli was a ritual deeply ingrained in Mesoamerican cultures and served purposes beyond that of a mere sporting event. Fray Juan de Torquemada, a 16th-century Spanish missionary and historian, tells that the Aztec emperor Axayacatl played Xihuitlemoc, the leader of Xochimilco, wagering his annual income against several Xochimilco chinampas.Ixtlilxochitl, a contemporary of Torquemada, relates that Topiltzin, the Toltec king, played against three rivals, with the winner ruling over the losers.
These examples and others are cited by many researchers who have made compelling arguments that ōllamaliztli served as a way to defuse or resolve conflicts without genuine warfare, to settle disputes through a ballgame instead of a battle.Over time, then, the ballgame's role would expand to include not only external mediation, but also the resolution of competition and conflict within the society as well.
This "boundary maintenance" or "conflict resolution" theory would also account for some of the irregular distribution of ballcourts. Overall, there appears to be a negative correlation between the degree of political centralization and the number of ballcourts at a site.For example, the Aztec Empire, with a strong centralized state and few external rivals, had relatively few ballcourts while Middle Classic Cantona, with 24 ballcourts, had many diverse cultures residing there under a relatively weak state.
Other scholars support these arguments by pointing to the warfare imagery often found at ballcourts:
The association between human sacrifice and the ballgame appears rather late in the archaeological record, no earlier than the Classic era.The association was particularly strong within the Classic Veracruz and the Maya cultures, where the most explicit depictions of human sacrifice can be seen on the ballcourt panels—for example at El Tajín (850–1100 CE) and at Chichen Itza (900–1200 CE)—as well as on the decapitated ballplayer stelae from the Classic Veracruz site of Aparicio (700–900 CE). The Postclassic Maya religious and quasi-historical narrative, the Popol Vuh, also links human sacrifice with the ballgame (see below).
Captives were often shown in Maya art, and it is assumed that these captives were sacrificed after losing a rigged ritual ballgame.Rather than nearly nude and sometimes battered captives, however, the ballcourts at El Tajín and Chichen Itza show the sacrifice of practiced ballplayers, perhaps the captain of a team. Decapitation is particularly associated with the ballgame—severed heads are featured in much Late Classic ballgame art and appear repeatedly in the Popol Vuh. There has been speculation that the heads and skulls were used as balls.
Little is known about the game's symbolic contents. Several themes recur in scholarly writing.
According to an important Nahua source, the Leyenda de los Soles,the Toltec king Huemac played ball against the Tlalocs, with precious stones and quetzal feathers at stake. Huemac won the game. When instead of precious stones and feathers, the rain deities offered Huemac their young maize ears and maize leaves, Huemac refused. As a consequence of this vanity, the Toltecs suffered a four-year drought. The same ball game match, with its unfortunate aftermath, signified the beginning of the end of the Toltec reign.
The Maya Twin myth of the Popol Vuh establishes the importance of the game (referred to in Classic Maya as pitz) as a symbol for warfare intimately connected to the themes of fertility and death. The story begins with the Hero Twins' father, Hun Hunahpu, and uncle, Vucub Hunahpu, playing ball near the underworld, Xibalba.The lords of the underworld became annoyed with the noise from the ball playing and so the primary lords of Xibalba, One Death and Seven Death, sent owls to lure the brothers to the ballcourt of Xibalba, situated on the western edge of the underworld. Despite the danger the brothers fall asleep and are captured and sacrificed by the lords of Xibalba and then buried in the ballcourt. Hun Hunahpu is decapitated and his head hung in a fruit tree, which bears the first calabash gourds. Hun Hunahpu's head spits into the hands of a passing goddess who conceives and bears the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The Hero Twins eventually find the ballgame equipment in their father’s house and start playing, again to the annoyance of the Lords of Xibalba, who summon the twins to play the ballgame amidst trials and dangers. In one notable episode, Hunahpu is decapitated by bats. His brother uses a squash as Hunahpu's substitute head until his real one, now used as a ball by the Lords, can be retrieved and placed back on Hunahpu's shoulders. The twins eventually go on to play the ballgame with the Lords of Xibalba, defeating them. However, the twins are unsuccessful in reviving their father, so they leave him buried in the ball court of Xibalba.
In Maya Ballgame the Hero Twins myth links ballcourts with death and its overcoming. The ballcourt becomes a place of transition, a liminal stage between life and death. The ballcourt markers along the centerline of the Classic playing field depicted ritual and mythical scenes of the ballgame, often bordered by a quatrefoil that marked a portal into another world. The Twins themselves, however, are usually absent from Classic ballgame scenes, with the Vucub Caquix of the Copán ball court babe, holding the severed arm of Hunahpu, as an important exception.
No ballcourt has yet been identified at Teotihuacan, making it by far the largest Classic era site without one. In fact, the ballgame seems to have been nearly forsaken not only in Teotihuacan, but in areas such as Matacapan or Tikal that were under Teotihuacano influence.
Despite the lack of a ballcourt, ball games were not unknown there. The murals of the Tepantitla compound at Teotihuacan show a number of small scenes that seem to portray various types of ball games, including:
It has been hypothesized that, for reasons as yet unknown, the stick-game eclipsed the hip-ball game at Teotihuacan and at Teotihuacan-influenced cities, and only after the fall of Teotihuacan did the hip-game reassert itself.
The Aztec version of the ballgame is called ōllamalitzli (sometimes spelled ullamaliztli) [ˈtɬatʃtɬi] . In the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan the largest ballcourt was called Teotlachco ("in the holy ballcourt")—here several important rituals would take place on the festivals of the month Panquetzalitzli, including the sacrifice of four war captives to the honor of Huitzilopochtli and his herald PaInal.and are derived from the word ōlli "rubber" and the verb ōllama or "to play ball". The ball itself was called ōllamaloni and the ballcourt was called a tlachtli
For the Aztecs the playing of the ballgame also had religious significance, but where the 16th-century K´iche´ Maya saw the game as a battle between the lords of the underworld and their earthly adversaries, their Aztec contemporaries may have seen it as a battle of the sun, personified by Huitzilopochtli, against the forces of night, led by the moon and the stars, and represented by the goddess Coyolxauhqui and Coatlicue's sons the 400 Huitznahuah.But apart from holding important ritual and mythical meaning, the ballgame for the Aztecs was a sport and a pastime played for fun, although in general the Aztec game was a prerogative of the nobles.
Young Aztecs would be taught ballplaying in the calmecac school—and those who were most proficient might become so famous that they could play professionally. Games would frequently be staged in the different city wards and markets—often accompanied by large-scale betting. Diego Durán, an early Spanish chronicler, said that "these wretches... sold their children in order to bet and even staked themselves and became slaves".
Since the rubber tree Castilla elastica was not found in the highlands of the Aztec Empire, the Aztecs generally received balls and rubber as tribute from the lowland areas where it was grown. The Codex Mendoza gives a figure of 16,000 lumps of raw rubber being imported to Tenochtitlan from the southern provinces every six months, although not all of it was used for making balls.
In 1528, soon after the Spanish conquest, Cortés sent a troupe of ōllamanime (ballplayers) to Spain to perform for Charles V where they were drawn by the German Christoph Weiditz.Besides the fascination with their exotic visitors, the Europeans were amazed by the bouncing rubber balls.
Ballcourts, monuments with ballgame imagery and ballgame paraphernalia have been excavated at sites along the Pacific coast of Guatemala and El Salvador including the Cotzumalhuapa nuclear zone sites of Bilbao and El Baúl and sites right at the southeast periphery of the Mesoamerican region such as Quelepa.
Batey, a ball game played on many Caribbean islands including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the West Indies, has been proposed as a descendant of the Mesoamerican ballgame, perhaps through the Maya.
The Toltec culture is an archaeological Mesoamerican culture that dominated a state centered in Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico in the early post-classic period of Mesoamerican chronology. The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors and described Toltec culture emanating from Tōllān[ˈtoːlːaːn] as the epitome of civilization; in the Nahuatl language the word Tōltēcatl[toːlˈteːkat͡ɬ] (singular) or Tōltēcah[toːlˈteːkaʔ] (plural) came to take on the meaning "artisan". The Aztec oral and pictographic tradition also described the history of the Toltec Empire, giving lists of rulers and their exploits.
The Olmecs were the earliest known major civilization in Mesoamerica following a progressive development in Soconusco. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. It has been speculated that the Olmecs derive in part from neighboring Mokaya or Mixe–Zoque.
Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub-valley of the Valley of Mexico, which is located in the State of Mexico, 40 kilometres (25 mi) northeast of modern-day Mexico City. Teotihuacan is known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas.It is the most important and largest pre-Columbian city in Mexico. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the first millennium CE, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more, making it at least the sixth-largest city in the world during its epoch. After the collapse of Teotihuacan, central Mexico was dominated by the Toltecs of Tula until about 1150 CE.
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.
Popol Vuh is a text recounting the mythology and history of the Kʼicheʼ people, one of the Maya peoples, who inhabit the Guatemalan Highlands northwest of present-day Guatemala City.
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Tollan, Tolan, or Tolán is a name used for the capital cities of two empires of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica; first for Teotihuacan, and later for the Toltec capital, Tula, both in Mexico. The name has also been applied to the Postclassic Mexican settlement Cholula.
Ulama is a ball game played in Mexico, currently experiencing a revival from its home in a few communities in the 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.
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.
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. More than 1,300 ballcourts have been identified, 60% in the last 20 years alone. 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
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Vucub-Caquix is the name of a bird demon defeated by the Hero Twins of a Kʼicheʼ-Mayan myth preserved in an 18th-century document, entitled ʼPopol Vuhʼ. The episode of the demon's defeat was already known in the Late Preclassic Period, before the year 200 AD. He was also the father of Zipacna, an underworld demon deity, and Cabrakan, the Earthquake God.
El Manatí is an archaeological site located approximately 60 km south of Coatzacoalcos, in the municipality of Hidalgotitlán 27 kilometers southeast of Minatitlan in the Mexican state of Veracruz. El Manatí was the site of a sacred Olmec sacrificial bog from roughly 1600 BCE until 1200 BCE. It is likely that this site, discovered in 1987, was used for ritual ceremonies which included offerings of wooden sculptures, rubber balls, ceremonial axes, and other items, including the bones of infants – all found in an excellent state of preservation in the muck. Most of the wooden sculptures are busts created in the "elongated man" style and are the oldest wooden artifacts yet found in Mexico. The rubber balls are also the earliest such items yet discovered and were possibly used in the Mesoamerican ballgame.
The Feathered Serpent was a prominent supernatural entity or deity, found in many Mesoamerican religions. It was called Quetzalcoatl among the Aztecs, Kukulkan among the Yucatec Maya, and Q'uq'umatz and Tohil among the K'iche' Maya.
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.
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.
Dainzú is a Zapotec archaeological site located in the eastern side of the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca, about 20 km south-east of the city of Oaxaca, Oaxaca State, Mexico. It is an ancient village near to and contemporary with Monte Alban and Mitla, with an earlier development. Dainzú was first occupied 700-600 BC but the main phase of occupation dates from about 200 BC to 350 AD. The site was excavated in 1965 by Mexican archaeologist Ignacio Bernal.
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.