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L. Ball Players in belts and knee pads. R. Ball court.

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L. Ball Players in belts and knee pads. R. Ball court.
5th-13th c Pre-Columbian: Mesoamerican L. Huastec Post-Classic R. Zapotec Ceram

ZAPOTEC Anonymous (active Pre Classic-Classic c. 500 BCE - 1000 CE) Primary
ZAPOTEC Anonymous (active Pre Classic-Classic c. 500 BCE - 1000 CE)
900-1200
5th-13th c
L. Huastec Post-Classic R. Zapotec
L. Gulf Coast. Mexico.R. Monte Alban. Mexico
L. New York. American Museum of Natural History, R. In situ
Precol79.prc03c06
Almost all major Mesoamerican sites included a ball court like the one shown on the right. Although much has been written about the games played in them, we are not certain of its exact symbolism, although we do know that they were more than mere sporting events. The ball courts were generally in the shape of a capital "I" with cross bars at either end. The game was played with a hard rubber ball which players were not permitted to touch with their hands or kick with their feet. Instead they manipulated the ball by striking it with their knees, elbows, buttocks or so-called "yokes" which they wore around their waists. We have stone examples of the U-shaped yokes although it is thought that these were most likely copies of leather-covered yokes that were actually worn by the players. Such a yoke is shown on the representation of the player on the left, who also wears a knee pad. The object of the game was to get the ball through a small stone hoop placed high on the court wall. Spectators sat on the top or on sloping sides of the court. The game was very lively and wagers were often placed. Since they did not have money as such, beautiful textiles were often used for wagers, although one noble with a gambling problem is reported to have wagered his entire household. Some scholars think that the games symbolized the movements of the heavenly bodies. An Aztec poem speaks of the games notes that above the court a sacred pheasant which symbolized the sun wonders which way to go. Another legend tells that one day the god Quetzalcoatl played against the rain god Tlaloc. When Quetzalcoatl won, Tlaloc offered him maize as a prize, but Quetzalcoatl demanded jade and fine feathers. Tlaloc game him what he asked, but warned him that jade could not compare with maize as food for man.

Caption: L. HUASTEC R. ZAPOTEC| L. Ball Players in belts and knee pads. R. Ball court.| L. 900-1200 R. c. 500 | Pre-Columbian: Mesoamerican | L. Huastec Post-Classic R. Zapotec

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