Maya Ball Court at Xunantunich
Today, many Mayan ball-courts can be viewed throughout Belize. The most notable Maya ball game structure can be seen at the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico. The Maya ball game has been examined extensively due to its apparent significance in Mayan culture and society, as well as the ritual sacrifice that was believed to take place coinciding with important dates in the Maya calendar. It is believed that the winners of the game were sacrificed!
The first recorded use of rubber was by the Olmecs, who centuries later passed on the knowledge of natural latex from the Hevea tree in 1600 BC to the ancient Maya. They boiled the harvested latex and combined the product with Morning Glory flower juice to make a ball for a sport.
In fact, the word “Olmec” also refers to the rubber balls used for their ancient ball game. Early modern explorers applied the name “Olmec” to the rediscovered ruins and art from this area before it was understood that these had been already abandoned more than a thousand years before the time of the people the Aztecs knew as the Olmec. Rubber ball games have great antiquity throughout the Americas, and the recent discovery of several rubber balls at the Olmec site of El Manati, near San Lorenzo, confirms that the game was played by the Olmec.
Photograph by Lower Dover Field Journal
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