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Chichen Itza Tours


Mayan Ball Game

The Ball Game

The Ball Game is characteristic of Mesoamerican societies. The Ball Game was more a ceremonial ritual than a sport and probably represented the symbolic recreation of the mythical combat between night and day. There is a singular acoustic phenomenon peculiar to the Ball Game Court: if one speaks in the Temple in the Southern end the voice can be heard at the opposite end, as the sound reverberates along the walls of the North Temple.

The Mayan Ball Game
Maya Ball Game Chichen Itza

The Rules of the Game

It has only been possible to partially reconstruct the rules of the ball game, thanks to pictorial representations and stone monuments. We know that at the beginning of the game the ball was thrown onto the court by hand, and that from that moment it could only be touched with the hips and thighs. We do not know the number of players, the scoring system, or how the winner was decided; according to information in the Popol Vuh we can infer that the game could be played one on one, in pairs, or in teams. In the depictions, the players appear in various attitudes, showing the different plays in this contest.

Rules of mayan ball game
Chichen Itza mayan ball game representation

The Ball

The ball for the game was made from liquid latex extracted from rubber trees. When heated, the resin formed threads that were first rolled up and then squeezed by hand or pressed in a mould.

The weight of the ball varied between 3 and 5 kilos, and when it became deformed it had the be stretched back into shape.

Each player had his own ball as part of his personal equipment.

In the depictions, there are some balls small enough to fit in the hand, and others bigger than a soccer ball.

The ball mayan ball game

The Temple of the Jaguars

The Temple of the Jaguars was built on the east wall of the Ball Game. An interesting mosaic repeats along the length of the frieze: two jaguars advance, from different directions, towards a round shield. The upper tableau is filled in with the bodies of two plumed serpents, with their heads at the edges of the frieze and the tails interlocked in the center.

The temple of jaguars