Splendid ball courts still stand at Tikal, Copán, Chichén Itzá, and several other Maya sites



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Ball Game
Splendid ball courts still stand at Tikal, Copán, Chichén Itzá, and several other Maya sites. The ball game was a pan-Mesoamerican game that was played with a solid rubber ball in a specially made court, between two opposing teams. Although in some versions of the game the ball could not be held in the hand during play, and the best shots were made from the hip, no one knows exactly what the rules were or how many players were on each side. It is certain, however, that the game played at these courts was both a sport and a religious rite. Equipment to protect the players included a wide, heavy belt of wood and leather, hip pads, knee pads, gloves, and in some areas, helmets. Colonial codices tell us that the rubber ball used to play the game symbolized the sun’s apparent motion across the sky, while the playing field represented earth. Colonials records report that victories were celebrated in a unique way: any time the ball passed through the hoop (not necessarily present in all courts), the scoring team was allowed to take the clothes and jewelry of the audience. Ball court art from both the Classic and Post-Classic periods depict members of the losing team being sacrificed.



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