Ulama ( [uˈlama] ) 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.
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.
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.
As part of its nationwide revival, the game now has a home in the capital Mexico City, at a cultural centre in the Azcapotzalco neighbourhood.
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.
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
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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 a god associated with both lightning and death. He was also 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.
The Mesoamerican ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played since 1400 BC 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.
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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 the ball 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).
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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
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.
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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 a 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.
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