Ulama (game)

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Sinaloan ulama player in action. Ulama 37 (Aguilar).jpg
Sinaloan ulama player in action.

Ulama ( [uˈlama] ) is a ball game played in a few communities in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Descended from the Aztec version of the Mesoamerican ballgame, [1] 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.

Sinaloa State of Mexico

Sinaloa, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Sinaloa, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, compose the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided into 18 municipalities and its capital city is Culiacán Rosales.

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.

A ball is a round object with various uses. It is used in ball games, where the play of the game follows the state of the ball as it is hit, kicked or thrown by players. Balls can also be used for simpler activities, such as catch or juggling. Balls made from hard-wearing materials are used in engineering applications to provide very low friction bearings, known as ball bearings. Black-powder weapons use stone and metal balls as projectiles.

Contents

History

The word ulama comes from the Nahuatl word ōllamaliztli [oːlːamaˈlistɬi] a combination of ōllamas [ˈoːlːama] (playing of a game with a ball) and ōllei [ˈoːlːi] (rubber). Ōllamaliztli was the Aztec name for the Mesoamerican ballgame, whose roots extended back to at least the 2nd millennium BC and evidence of which has been found in nearly all Mesoamerican cultures in an area extending from modern-day Mexico to El Salvador, and possibly in modern-day Arizona and New Mexico. [2] Archaeologists have uncovered rubber balls dating to at least 1600 BC, [3] ballgamer figures from at least 1200 BC, and nearly 1500 ancient ball courts. [2] [4]

Nahuatl, known historically as Aztec, is a language or group of languages of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Varieties of Nahuatl are spoken by about 1.7 million Nahua peoples, most of whom live in central Mexico.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

El Salvador country in Central America

El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador's capital and largest city is San Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a population of approximately 6.34 million.

However, due to its religious and ritual aspects, Spanish Catholics suppressed the game soon after the Spanish conquest, leaving it to survive in areas such as Sinaloa, where Spanish influence was less pervasive. [5]

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire conflict

The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, or the Spanish–Mexica War (1519–21), was the conquest of the Aztec Empire by the Spanish Empire within the context of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. There are multiple 16th-century narratives of the events by Spanish conquerors, their indigenous allies and the defeated Aztecs. It was not solely a contest between a small contingent of Spaniards defeating the Aztec Empire but rather the creation of a coalition of Spanish invaders with tributaries to the Aztecs, and most especially the Aztecs' indigenous enemies and rivals. They combined forces to defeat the Mexica of Tenochtitlan over a two-year period. For the Spanish, the expedition to Mexico was part of a project of Spanish colonization of the New World after twenty-five years of permanent Spanish settlement and further exploration in the Caribbean.

Ulama

Ulama games are played on a temporary court called a tastei ( [tas.te] , from tlachtli [ˈt͡ɬat͡ʃt͡ɬi] , the Nahuatl word meaning "ballcourt"). The bounds of these long narrow courts are made by drawing or chalking thick lines in the dirt. The courts are divided into opposing sides by a center line, called an analco. A ball that is allowed to cross the end line, the chichi or chivo, will result in a point for the opposing team. Points or rayas ("lines", so named for the tally marks used to keep score) are gained in play. The scoring system provides for resetting the score to zero in certain conditions, which can make for lengthy games.

Chalk A soft, white, porous sedimentary rock made of calcium carbonate

Chalk is a soft, white, porous, sedimentary carbonate rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is an ionic salt called calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite shells (coccoliths) shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores. Flint (a type of chert) is very common as bands parallel to the bedding or as nodules embedded in chalk. It is probably derived from sponge spicules or other siliceous organisms as water is expelled upwards during compaction. Flint is often deposited around larger fossils such as Echinoidea which may be silicified (i.e. replaced molecule by molecule by flint).

Tally marks

Tally marks, also called hash marks, are a unary numeral system. They are a form of numeral used for counting. They are most useful in counting or tallying ongoing results, such as the score in a game or sport, as no intermediate results need to be erased or discarded.

The modern-day game has three main forms:

The object of the game is to keep the ball in play and in bounds. Depending on the score and the local variant of the rules the ball is played either high or low. A team scores a point when a player of the opposing team hits the ball out of turn; misses the ball; knocks the ball out of bounds; touches the ball with their hands or some other body part aside from the hip; accidentally touches a teammate; lets the ball stop moving before it reaches the centre line or even if they fail to announce the score after they have scored a point.

The first team that scores eight points wins. If both teams end up having the same number of points after a turn, both sides begin again from zero. One record-setting game reportedly lasted for eight days,[ citation needed ] but most modern games are stopped after about two hours.

Aztec ullamaliztli players performing for Charles V in Spain, drawn by Christoph Weiditz in 1528. Note the similarity in dress to the modern-day ulama player above. Ullamaliztliwiditz.jpg
Aztec ullamaliztli players performing for Charles V in Spain, drawn by Christoph Weiditz in 1528. Note the similarity in dress to the modern-day ulama player above.

Ulama balls

See also Mesoamerican rubber balls

See also

Notes

  1. Leyenaar (2001) p. 123.
  2. 1 2 Fox, John. The ball : discovering the object of the game, 1st ed., New York : Harper, 2012. ISBN   978-0-06-188179-4. Cf. Chapter 4: "Sudden Death in the New World" about the Ulama game.
  3. See El Manati article for information on recovery of the earliest rubber balls.
  4. Taladoire counts 1560 courts discovered as of the year 2000, p. 98.
  5. Leyenaar (2001) p. 128.
  6. For a more indepth look at hip ulama and forearm ulama, see Leyenaar (2001).
  7. Federación Mexicana de Juegos y Deportes Autóctonos y Tradicionales, A.C.

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