The Maya civilization was spread out throughout much of Central America. One of the common links of the Mayan culture of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize is the game played with a rubber ball , about which we have learned from several sources. Maya ballgame was played with big stone courts.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
Mysterious Decline of the Maya From the late eighth through the end of the ninth century, something unknown happened to shake the Maya civilization to its foundations. One by one, the Classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by A.D. 900, Maya civilization in that region had collapsed.
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.
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.
To indicate a date, the Maya calendar used five figures in this order: baktun, katun, tun, uin, kin. This would be written as, for example: 9.10. 19.5. 11 10 Chuen 4 Kumku, which translates as 9 baktuns (1,296,000 days), 10 katuns (72,000 days), 19 tuns (6,840 days), 5 uinals (100 days), 11 kins (11 days).