One of the many things the ancient Mayas are remembered for is their ball game , which they called pitz. Nowadays, many people consider themselves die-hard sports fans. Well, the ancient Mayas took this to a whole different level.
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.
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.
They hit the ball with their upper arms, thighs or hips. The rubber balls they used were of varying weight and size, from the size of a softball to a soccer ball . Solid rubber balls were heavy—up to eight or nine pounds—and could cause serious injury or even death. Games were won mostly by points.
The Aztecs had many different games , such as Patolli and Ullamaliztli. Ullamaliztli was a ball game played between teams using rubber balls, in court shaped like a capital I. The court itself was known as Tlachtli, and was 60 metres long and 10 metres wide.
The Maya built pyramids, temples, palaces, walls , residences and more. They often decorated their buildings with intricate stone carvings, stucco statues, and paint.
A boy’s job was to learn from his father how to do the same occupation as his father.” Young girls were expected to perform household duties, while young boys were to help their fathers in farming. Mostly women raised the children , but “When a boy was about four or five his father began the training of his son.”
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.
The Maya dead were laid to rest with maize placed in their mouth. Maize, highly important in Maya culture, is a symbol of rebirth and also was food for the dead for the journey to the otherworld. Similarly, a jade or stone bead placed in the mouth served as currency for this journey.
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 .
Pok-A-Tok was a ball game played by the ancient Maya well over 1000 years ago in what’s now Cancun and Riviera Maya. And there’s evidence that the Toltecs and Aztecs played variations of the game , too, as there are stadiums (for lack of a better term) dotted throughout 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 Maya believed that when people died, they entered the Underworld through a cave or a cenote. When kings died, they followed the path linked to the cosmic movement of the sun and fell into the Underworld; but, because they possessed supernatural powers, they were reborn into the Sky World and became gods.
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).