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Danger on the Court: The Deadly Ancient Mesoamerican Ball Game

April 28, 2020 - General
Mesoamerican ball game players

The Mesoamerican ball game is the oldest known team sport in the world. It was practiced by ancient Pre-Columbian cultures of Central America and played almost a millennium before the establishment of the first Greek Olympic Games. A fast-paced, often brutal game tied in with religious ritual, contestants often lost their lives and human sacrifices were regular occurrences.

From ancient times until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the sport was not just a game but a major part of Mesoamerican culture played by the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations.

Violence in the Mesoamerican Ball Game

To the Maya people, it was known as Pok a Tok, to the Aztec it was Tlachtli. Today it is called Ulama. The Mesoamerican ball game was a game where the action reached unimaginable levels of violence even by today’s standards. Serious injury was common as players dove onto stone courts to keep a ball in play and would end the game bloodied and bruised. When the high-speed movement of a heavy flying ball hit a player, it could cause internal bleeding to unprotected body zones and sometimes even death.

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Source: origins

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