Mesoamerican ballgame

The Mesoamerican ball game was both play and ritual for the Mesoamerican peoples ( Aztecs, Maya, Mixtec, Toltec, Totonac and Zapotec ) in pre-Columbian times. Again much - have long been one Olmecs as the inventor of the ball game, but - in view of the late 20th century in Paso de la Amada on the Pacific coast discovered ball court from the period around 1400 BC (see Mokaya culture) uncertain. The close connection between cultic ritual, arbitrator and / sport had until the conquest of the continent by Europeans a significant role (from 1519) and the widespread cultural destruction stopped. It is reported that Emperor Charles V of Hernán Cortés was demonstrated to an Aztec ball game team. The Mesoamerican ballgame was therefore probably an important factor in the development of European ball games. Even today variants of the Mesoamerican ball game to be played. In the Pacific coastal regions of Mexico Sinaloa and Nayarit, this is for example the Ulama.

Interesting is the fact that neither in Teotihuacan, one of the largest and most important cities of Mesoamerica, nor in the many cultural sites in the Americas ball courts have been found. In Teotihuacán, however, some ballplayers are seen in the mural of ' Paradise of Tlaloc ', where the subject but is treated here as a leisure activity.

  • 3.1 Rules
  • 3.2 Jochsteine
  • 3.3 clothing
  • 3.4 viewers


Only since the last quarter of the 20th century it was possible to read various Mesoamerican writings. That is still no reliable knowledge, so that it always comes back to revaluations of individual characters. This is especially true for the grammar, so that the representation may be regarded as preliminary here.


In Aztec font glyph tlachtli stands for a ball court. The ball is called olli ( IPA: [' o: l li], sometimes inaccurately written ulli ), just like his material, where the Spanish word for rubber hule comes. It is a natural product, which was probably produced by the rubber tree Castilla elastica. The game is called ollamaliztli, ( hunt, prisoners make ) a composition of olli and tlama with nouns forming suffixes.


The glyph pi- tzi -li ( purely syllabic spelling) is, as is typical for Maya, admiringly used for both the adjective ball playing as well as beautiful. The more sacred character of the game is reflected in the fact that the noun pi- tzi -la occurs in titles and the ball game of the divine twins Hunahpu and Ixbalanque against the forces of the underworld ( xibalba ) in the mystical book of the Quiché - Maya, the Popol Vuh, a has great significance.


So far, could be discovered in the Mesoamerican ruin cities more than 1500 ball courts; even smaller places sometimes had several ball courts. The best preserved and restored buildings are now in Copan, Iximché, Monte Albán, Uxmal, Chichen Itza and Zaculeu, the latter being of a width of 166 meters and a depth of 68 meters in the wings is the greatest. The object of the game was - in the opinion of some researchers - is to put a ball attached by a in the middle part of the central field area at some height ( 2.50 to 3.50 meters) ring through or certain - not circular but mostly full round - Markiersteine ​​, which probably symbolized the sun to hit. Very often you can find an H-shape of the playing field, in which the two end pieces, from which the ring or the Markierstein could not be reached, possibly had different rules. For most ball courts, the average pitch is accompanied by lateral slopes, from which the ball again was able to jump into the field; for players and spectators entering this area was probably taboo.



During the three millennia in which the game was played, the rules changed - also location-dependent - again and again: Both the number of participating players varied as well as the parts of the body with which the ball could be touched, and also the consequences of a lost game - long time it was believed that the cue ball, the one associated with the sun, the soil should not touch. It is an open question whether there is a match between two opposing teams was in the classical period, or if all players in the common goal, which is to keep the ball in the air worked together. In all representations of ballplayers, it is striking that the ball never lies on the floor. The social significance of the game also changed - Representations in Chichen Itza suggest that it ended with human sacrifices, but there are also reports, after which decided with a game of outcome of wars, prisoners of war were playing for their survival to bet large values or was it - probably only in the late period - was the center of festivities. A very detailed description of the game in the post-classical period are the Dominican Diego Durán.


In Mexico and in Mesoamerica a variety of exceedingly rich in relief U-shaped Jochsteinen ( Yugos ) were found, their relationship was discovered late to the ball game. They were placed around the hips of the ball players and tied at the open end with ribbons. Maybe the 15-20 kg heavy stones were used only for ceremonial purposes and were exchanged for the actual game against lighter girdles made ​​of skins, deer skin or wound material. However, some researchers are of the firm view that the Hüftsteine ​​- perhaps wrapped with cushions - were also worn during the game.


The ball players wear under the lap belt or Hüftstein a highly bound between the legs cloth, sometimes probably a jaguar skin. The feet are in high sandals. The hands are sometimes protected by a kind glove (El Baul, Stela 5 ); only elbows and shoulders, which were probably quite essential to the play of the ball remained unprotected. On the representations of ballplayers is often a complicated headdress to see - whether it was worn during the game action is unclear.


The often, but not always existing slopes on both sides of the central playing surface reminiscent of bleachers, but one must assume that they are just there as a rolling back of the ball and for players and spectators alike were taboo. So stayed for viewers only only by ladders, but do not have stairs, accessible and not very large platforms on the surrounding walls, on which - depending on the size of the ball court - about 100 to a maximum of 500 ( Chichen Itza ) found people. From this one must conclude that the mesoamerkanische ball game was not a popular show, but primarily an elitist cultic- ceremonial event, which was a small class of nobles reserved. On a few small ceramics of the post-classical period it can be seen that in quite a few ball courts, the walls were extended to both sides to a few meters deep seating for spectators.


As part of the arts and culture program for the Football World Cup 2006 Pok -ta- Pok games were listed in several German cities by the Mexican government in traditional clothing in replica sports facilities on the type of Mesoamerican ball game.