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, 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, 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.
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. Archaeologists have uncovered rubber balls dating to at least 1600 BC, ballgamer figures from at least 1200 BC, and nearly 1500 ancient ball courts.
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, 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, 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.
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.
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 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 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, 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.
See also Mesoamerican rubber balls
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.
In Aztec mythology, Xolotl was the god with associations to both lightning and death. He was associated with the sunset and would guard the Sun as it traveled through the underworld every night. Dogs were associated with Xolotl. This deity and a dog were believed to lead the soul on its journey to the underworld. He was commonly depicted as a monstrous dog. Xolotl was the god of fire and lightning. He was also god of twins, monsters, misfortune, sickness, and deformities. Xolotl is the canine brother and twin of Quetzalcoatl, the pair being sons of the virgin Coatlicue. He is the dark personification of Venus, the evening star, and was associated with heavenly fire.
Nezahualpilli was ruler (tlatoani) of the Mesoamerican city-state of Texcoco, elected by the city's nobility after the death of his father, Nezahualcoyotl, in 1472.
American handball, known as handball in the United States, is a sport in which players use their hands to hit a small rubber ball against a wall such that their opponent cannot do the same without it touching the ground twice. The three versions are four-wall, three-wall and one-wall. Each version can be played either by two players (singles), three players (cutthroat) or four players (doubles), but in official tournaments, singles and doubles are the only versions played.
Batéy was the name given to a special plaza around which the Caribbean Taino built their settlements. It was usually a rectangular area surrounded by stones with carved symbols (petroglyphs).
Hooverball is a medicine ball game invented by President Herbert Hoover's personal physician, Medal of Honor recipient Joel T. Boone, to help keep then-President Hoover fit. The Hoover Presidential Library Association and the city of West Branch, Iowa co-host a national championship each year.
Gateball is a mallet team sport inspired by croquet. It is a fast-paced, non-contact, highly strategic team game, which can be played by anyone regardless of age or gender.
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
Castilla elastica, the Panama rubber tree, is a tree native to the tropical areas of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. It was the principal source of latex among the Mesoamerican peoples in pre-Columbian times. The latex gathered from Castilla elastica was converted into usable rubber by mixing the latex with the juice of the morning glory species Ipomoea alba which, conveniently, is typically found in the wild as a vine climbing Castilla elastica. The rubber produced by this method found several uses, including most notably, the manufacture of balls for the Mesoamerican ballgame ōllamaliztli.
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.
The pre-Columbian history of the territory now comprising contemporary Mexico is known through the work of archaeologists and epigraphers, and through the accounts of the conquistadors, clergymen, and indigenous chroniclers of the immediate post-conquest period. While relatively few documents of the Mixtec and Aztec cultures of the Post-Classic period survived the Spanish conquest, more progress has been made in the area of Mayan archaeology and epigraphy.
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.
Maya Ballgame, which is a branch of the Mesoamerican Ballgame, is an sport event that was played throughout the Maya civilization. The Maya civilization was spread out throughout much of Central America. One of the common links of the Mayan culture of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize is the game played with a rubber ball, about which we have learned from several sources. Maya ballgame was played with big stone courts. The ball court itself was a focal point of Maya cities and symbolized the city's wealth and power. The playing arena was in the shape of an I with high platforms on either side of the court allowing for large numbers of spectators. Portable stone court markers known as hacha usually depicting animals or skulls were placed around the arena. The game was played for 2 weeks.
Pelota purépecha, called Uárukua Ch'anakua in the Purépecha language, is an Indigenous Mexican sport similar to those in the Hockey family. A common variant, distinguished as pasárutakua in Purépecha, uses a ball which has been set on fire and can be played at night. It has a league, several practicing communities and about 800 players across Mexico as of 2010. It is one of 150 pre-Hispanic Mexican games at risk of dying out along with Ulama.
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