The ancient Mayan Ballgame

8 Facts you need to know

If you have ever visited Chichen Itza or Xcaret before, you might remember the Mayan Ballgame court. A place where Mayans used to play the oldest known team sport in the world: Juego de pelota. There is a lot of information and theories about this ancient game, here are 8 facts to help you understand a little more about this tradition.




1.- It was a fundamental part of the social life of Mesoamerica. Better known as “Pok ta’Pok” by the Mayans and “Tlachtli” by the Nahua.

2.- The Mayan Ballgame was a sacred ceremony, it was treated as a ritual to promote the movement of the stars, contributing to the victory of the sun over the night. 



Image source: Arqueología Mexicana

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3.- The balls with which they played, weighted between one and fifteen pounds and were made from Castilla elastica,rubber tree native to the tropical areas of Mexico. 

4.- One of the hypotheses is that the game often had a divine ending, demanding human sacrifice. But there is no proof of which team was sacrificed: the losing team, or the winners.



Image source: Kenneth Garrett, National Geographic

5.- Iconographic evidence show that the game was performed by two teams that moved the ball with a part of their body: hand, forearm, leg, head or hip.  

6.- In Chichen Itza, you can find The Grand Ball Court, the largest field in Mesoamerica. It’s a large rectangular playfield with two identical sloping walls on the longest side.




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7.-Its meaning is connected to the myth of the divine twins Hunahpu and Ixbalanqué, and their confrontation with the Lords of Death, which is documented in the Popol Vuh book.

8.- The Mayan ballgame tradition is still alive in the north of Mexico. Intended to keep transferring it from generation to generation.



The Mayan Ballgame is a fascinating experience, filled with ritual importance. You can enjoy an interpretation of this ceremony at the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular show.

Would you have dared to be a ball player in your other life?