The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Pre-Columbian America

What is the significance of ball playing in Mesoamerica?

Ball games were popular throughout Mesoamerica, and art depicting ball games exists in many Mesoamerican cultures including the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec. Arche-ologists have even discovered the ruins of sunken Olmec ball courts. Not much is known about the specific rules of the game. Mayan art depicts ball players wearing protective padding, and other art shows players wearing helmets and even leather belts. It is important to note that the game wasn’t just for fun—it had a serious religious significance for those who played and watched. It is possible that some ball players were forced to participate against their will and that human sacrifice played a role in the game. According to Mayan mythology, ball games were symbolic of the cycle of life, death, and regeneration.


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