Mesoamerican Ballgame

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Social Studies
Ancient History

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 Mesoamerican Ballgame

Ballcourts were a symbol of the cities' wealth and power, players entered the court dressed in the finest jewerly, animal skins, and feathered headdress. The games were also very dangerous and often resulted in serious injury. Although not every game was associated with ritual, those that were required a player from the loosing team to be sacrificed to maintain balance between good and evil. The game is also rooted in the Mayan creation story, the Popol Vuh.

Classroom Resource: The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame at:

Ball Court at Monte Alban

Women and BallgamesAlthough many figures of female ballplayers have been discovered it is unclear as to whether they were actual players of actors in ceremonies.

Carved Panel. El Tajin South Ball Court. From Michael E. Kampen, "The Sculptures of El Tajin, Veracruz, Mexico," University of Florida Press, 1972, fig. 23.

Spectical and Ritual

Earliest Mesoamericans known to have played Ulama were the Olmec. The Olmec, Teothihuacan, Maya, Veracruz, Toltec, Haustec, and the Aztec all played some variation of the game.

Mesoamerican Ballgame (Ulama)

Werner Forman Archive / The Bridgeman Art Library



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