Aztec Ball Game

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Aztec and Mayan Game (juego de pelota)

Aztec and Mayan Game (juego de pelota)


The ball game is among one of the ancient sports in the world. The game also knows as “juego de pelota. The major civilizations of Meso America played this game, few of which include Olmec, Toctec, Aztec and Maya. This game was mostly played on the occasions of ceremonies and rituals, it was as popular as the football is, in this age.

Thesis Statement

This essay discusses the origin, architecture, rituals, and evolution of the ancient ball game of Meso America.


Many ancient American nations played the ancient version of the Mesoamerican ball game. Different civilization called this game with different names, for example, Aztec called tlachtli, Mayas called pok-a-tok, and some other Mexican groups called the same as ulama. The game was certainly a form of team sport, but apart from that, it was also an important religious ritual.


In the ancient era of 1400 BC, Pre Columbian people played this game, in association with some rituals. The players included Ancient Mexico and Central America (Taladoire, 2001). Research shows that, Olmecs civilization was the first, who started playing this game on various religious ceremonies. It is not clear that whether or not Olmecs invented the game themselves, however it is definite that they spread it to other Mesoamerican cultures.

The people played ball games in the courts specifically designed for the purpose. More than 600 such ball courts found in Mexico. The architecture is more or less same for all the courts that consist of two parallel walls along the sides of the field. There used to be a 26 foot high wall on each side of the field, which was slightly slanted outwards. The huge ring held in between these two walls.

These ball courts are with varying sizes and styles, the common feature of all ball courts is that there are long narrow alleys with the side-walls. The ball bounced against these side walls. Many ball courts found at Copan, Uxmal, Xochicalco, Monte Alban, Toluquilla and Chichen Itza.

The most famous ball court locates at Chichen Itza. The signs of the court can be still seen. The court is largest as compared to the other found courts; in addition, it also showed the ancient carving skills of Meso Americans.

Rules and Rituals

Most civilizations played this game in large ball courts and fields of varying shapes and sizes. The objective of the game was to pass the ball made of hard rubber, through the hole in the stone wall. The size of this ball used to be approximately equal to the human's head (Carrillo M.J., 2012). The opposing teams (often from different tribes, dressed in different colored game uniforms) faced each other in a field to achieve the objective. However, this objective was very difficult to achieve as the game did not allow the players to touch the ball. They could only use their hips, elbows and knees for hitting the ...
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