During the pre-Columbian era, human sacrifice in Maya culture was the ritual offering of nourishment to the gods. 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.
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 gods needed human blood and hearts to keep the sun and moon in orbit. Some ball games were played to resolve bitter disputes between rival cities or as a proxy for war. The Maya also saw the game as a battle between the gods of death and the gods of life or between good and evil.
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.
Do The Maya Still Exist ? Descendants of the Maya still live in Central America in modern-day Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and parts of Mexico. The majority of them live in Guatemala, which is home to Tikal National Park, the site of the ruins of the ancient city of Tikal.
Maya priests in the city of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula sacrificed children to petition the gods for rain and fertile fields by throwing them into sacred sinkhole caves, known as “cenotes.” The caves served as a source of water for the Mayans and were also thought to be an entrance to the underworld.
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 losers were not sacrificed—at least not all the time. If that were the case, the Maya civilization would have decimated itself fairly quickly. The winners of the war also won the ball game , after which the losers were then sacrificed, either by decapitation or removal of the heart.
Read more: 7 of Mexico’s best ruins, and how you can see them. Tulum , Mexico. Tulum , Mexico. Copan, Honduras. Copan, Honduras. Tikal, Guatemala. Tikal, Guatemala. Xunantunich, Belize. Xunantunich, Belize. Palenque, Mexico. Palenque, Mexico.
Humans and the lords of the underworld battled it out by playing the game , according to the creation story the known as the Popol Vuh. In this way, the ball court was a portal to Xibalba — the Mayan underworld. There are even some depictions of ball players playing with the heads of the losers in place of a ball.
The designation Maya comes from the ancient Yucatan city of Mayapan, the last capital of a Mayan Kingdom in the Post-Classic Period. The Maya people refer to themselves by ethnicity and language bonds such as Quiche in the south or Yucatec in the north (though there are many others).
Long before basketball and soccer , ancient Maya were hitting the park to play rounds of Mesoamerican ball game. “The idea of the team sport was invented in Mesoamerica,” says Mary Miller, a professor of the history of art at Yale University who has studied extensive evidence of the sport.