The players were only allowed to use their heads, elbows, legs, and hips to hit the ball. The ball was not allowed to touch the ground, so the players often dove to avoid losing points. If one of the teams got the ball through the stone hoop, the game was over and that team won.
The penalty for losing a game was sometimes unusually harsh: death. The leader of the team who lost the game was sometimes killed. This fit in with the Mayan belief that human sacrifice was necessary for the continued success of the peoples’ agriculture, trade, and overall health.
The Maya played ball on a field that was shaped like the capital letter I. The ball, made out of rubber , was about the size of a volleyball and weighed between 6 to 10 pounds. Players would play on teams of two to four.
Scholars have suggested a number of potential reasons for the downfall of Maya civilization in the southern lowlands, including overpopulation, environmental degradation, warfare, shifting trade routes and extended drought. It’s likely that a complex combination of factors was behind the collapse.
Although much of the Maya life was spent doing hard work, they did enjoy entertainment as well. A lot of their entertainment was centered around religious ceremonies. They played music, danced, and played games such as the Maya ball game.
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Blood was viewed as a potent source of nourishment for the Maya deities, and the sacrifice of a living creature was a powerful blood offering. By extension, the sacrifice of a human life was the ultimate offering of blood to the gods, and the most important Maya rituals culminated in human sacrifice .
In ancient Mesoamerica human sacrifices were viewed as a repayment for the sacrifices the gods had themselves made in creating the world. In Mesoamerican culture human sacrifices were viewed as a repayment for the sacrifices the gods had themselves made in creating the world and the sun.
Another aspect of Maya blood sacrifice involved ritual bloodletting. In the Popol Vuh, the first Maya pierced their skin to offer blood to the gods Tohil , Avilix , and Hacavitz.
The Aztec, Olmec, and Maya of Mesoamerica are known to have made rubber using natural latex—a milky, sap-like fluid found in some plants. Some of the rubber came out more bouncy, suggesting it may have been used to make balls for the legendary Mesoamerican ball games.
The sport of ” olaball ” was inspired by a Mesoamerican ballgame that was played in pre-Columbian times.