Mayan Traditions, the Ancient Game of Pelota | Mexico

byVerónica Crocitti

The origins of the Game of Pelota date back to Mayan times, inMexico. In the archaeological sites ofUxmal and Chichen Itzait is still possible to see the remains, which have remained almost intact, of the immense playing fields as well as of the stone rings, placed in the center on high poles, within which the players of the two teams had to let the Pelota enter.

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The Mayan game of pelota

After describing the structure and functions of the all-importantcultural center of Chichen Itza, one of the seven wonders of the modern world, in this article I will explain how the Maya used to have fun with the famous game of Pelota.

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There were two teams facing each other on the huge playing fields and each was made up of seven players. Looking carefully at the bas-reliefs found on the walls of the ancient playing fields, one can clearly see the scenes of the time and the clothes that the opponents wore during the game.

Playing field of the pelota of the Maya

TherePelotait was composed of a gummy resin the size of a bowling ball and the goal of the game was to make it bounce, without using your hands, directing it inside large circles that were on top of high poles placed in the center of the field. To pass the ball, players could only use hips, buttocks, hips and elbows. The rules were strict and no one could overrule by using their hands or feet to send the ball to their partner.

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The players didn't have special clothes but their most sensitive parts, such as hips, armpits, arms and knees, were always covered by wide belts. In this way it was avoided that the pelota, launched at great speed, could cause fractures earlier than expected. Depending on the traditions, some teams wore more traditional attire withgreat helmetsoften depicting intertwined snakes.

Matches in the Maya pelota game could last for days. Not trophies were won, but glory, and the losing team was killed and sacrificed to the gods.

Verónica Crocitti

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