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.
Origins. The game was invented sometime in the Preclassical Period (2500-100 BCE), probably by the Olmec, and became a common Mesoamerican -wide feature of the urban landscape by the Classical Period (300-900 CE). Eventually, the game was even exported to other cultures in North America and the Caribbean.
The game was played with a rubber ball that was approximately 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in weight. It is believed that the point of the game was for the players to hit the ball back and forth to each other by using their hips, forearms or thighs. The purpose was to keep the ball in play and keep the game going.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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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.
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.
Civilizations like the Olmec, Maya, Aztec and Inca all built pyramids to house their deities, as well as to bury their kings. In many of their great city-states, temple- pyramids formed the center of public life and were the site of holy rituals, including human sacrifice.
The sport of ” olaball ” was inspired by a Mesoamerican ballgame that was played in pre-Columbian times.