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The Inspirations From The Mayan Ballgame

1539 words - 7 pages

The Pre-Columbian peoples of the Mesoamerican area are a population that has since fascinated historians and archaeologists to this day. Exploration and investigation has brought to light the great advancements these civilizations made in the areas of art, technology, and even astronomy. By means of examining and analyzing the remains, the massive structures and artifacts left behind by the early people of these civilizations, we have come to know of their rich culture and traditions. One group that we know a great deal of, the Classic Maya, exhibited a culture that was not only sophisticated and ahead of its time, but also one of great art and rituals. What was of great significance to ...view middle of the document...

There were markers at each end and rings off the ground, where the rubber ball was probably intended to be shot. However Miller and Houston believe that the game was played against stairs, as evidenced by various glyphs and excavated art. According to these historians the ballgame was much more than a game, it involved war and sacrifice. It is universally agreed upon and can be seen in Mayan art that the players used protection when playing, players jumped high to hit the ball and went on a knee for a low ball, so they wore leather on their thighs and loin-clouts and a “U” shaped waist protector called a yoke. Schele spoke with Mayan Indians, descendants of the great ballplayers, and learned that a variation of the game is still played today, called pitz, meaning “play ball.” The game has been passed on through various generations and survives as a “sandlot” sport, but it is and ever will be a game of great significance to the Mayan peoples.
The Popol Vuh, the collection of stories describing Mayan mythistory, contains the origin of the ballgame, and in this story is embedded the framework of proper Mayan values and behavior. It is what Freidel, Schele, and Parker call “a charter for a way of life.” According to the Popol Vuh, the Hero Twins named Hunahpu and Xblalanque cross over into the Underworld, Xibalba. There they play the Lords of the domain in a series of ballgames risking their lives as they are also tested in various trials, hoping to avenge their father and uncle, Hun Hunahpu and Vuqub Hunahpu, who were defeated and sacrificed in the game. After losing a series of games the Hero Twins are put into various “houses” where the Lords expect them to die. Through guile and many tricks, and the help of various animal creatures, the Twins outsmart the Lords of the Underworld and kill them. The Hero Twins then save their father and according to the Popol Vuh, are ascended into the sky, resurrected as the sky’s own stars, “the sun belongs to one and the moon the other.” This ballgame story is a classic Good vs Evil tale. The Hero Twins serve as a model for how the Mayans are to act. Their story is a struggle for all that is good. They played the ballgame in the name of justice, to avenge the First Fathers and to defeat the Lords of the Underworld. These Lords stand for all that is bad. Death, disease, sadness – everything is now restricted to the Underworld. According to the Popol Vuh, after their defeat “only the worthless will yield themselves before [the Lords].” No longer would the Lords torment randomly, only those that deserve it. This tale teaches the Mayans to act morally. The Twins exhibit qualities of virtue and devotion and were even resurrected into the heavens. This gives the Mayan people a reason to act in a way the Twins would have, in hopes gaining everlasting life with the gods. This tale of the first ballgame played, between Lords and gods, is a tale that teaches the Mayans the proper way to behave,...

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