“Sensational” Ancient Mayan Ball Game Scoreboard Discovery

A Spanish archaeological team have unearthed a Mayan stone marker scorboard from an ancient ball game that was played thousands of years ago and incorporated elements of football, tennis, rugby and basketball.

The discovery of the ancient stone, which has been hailed as a sensation, was made in Chichen Itza, a large pre-Columbian city built by the Mayans that saw its heyday between 600 AD and 900 AD.

The experts who found it have confirmed that it is from the Maya Ballgame, a sport that was played by the Mayans, as well as other Latin American civilisations.

The game originated over 3,000 years ago and involved two teams of up to six players on each side with a single game lasting up to two weeks. They used a rubber ball, and players were only able to use their right hip, right elbow and right knee to touch the ball, which was not allowed to fall on the ground.

The object of the game was to make sure that the ball, which was understandably difficult to keep in the air, was in the control of the opposing team who would lose points every time it fell on the ground.

Picture shows the Mayan stone disc used as a marker for the Mesoamerican ballgame, undated. It was discovered in Chichen Itza, Mexico, despite being more than a thousand years old the carving was intact. (INAH/Newsflash)

The pitch on which the game was played was in the shape of an eye and decorated with movable stone markers like the one that has now been found.

The marker, in the shape of a thick disc, features two ball players in its centre and Mayan hieroglyphic text around the sides.

Newsflash obtained a statement from Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History; INAH), saying that the “Ball Court marker was discovered in Chichen Itza with its complete Mayan hieroglyphic text intact.”

The artefact, measuring 32.5 centimetres (12.8 inches) is in diameter by 9.5 centimetres (3.74 inches) thick and weighing 40 kilogrammes (88 lbs) “must have been attached to an arch that served as access to the Casa Colorada architectural complex” of Chichen Itza.

The statement said that experts working for the INAH discovered the stone marker during archaeological work carried out as part of the country’s Programme for the Improvement of Archaeological Zones, adding that the find is highly relevant because “it is a sculptural element that preserves its complete glyphic text”.

The artefact, dubbed the “Ball Players Disc”, was found by archaeologist Lizbeth Beatriz Mendicuti Perez, within the Casa Colorada (‘colourful house’) architectural complex, “itself named after the remains of red paint inside”.

Picture shows a scientist examining the the Mayan stone disc used as a marker for the Mesoamerican ballgame, undated. It was discovered in Chichen Itza, Mexico, despite being more than a thousand years old the carving was intact. (INAH/Newsflash)

The archaeologist Francisco Perez Ruiz, who oversees the dig site together with the archaeologist Jose Osorio Leon, said that the location corresponds to an arch that was once used to access the area.

Mystery still surrounds the exact role of the stone discs, but experts think that it might have been used as a marker for an important event linked to the Casa Colorada Ball Court, which was a court that was much smaller than the famous Great Ball Court of Chichen Itza.

Perez Ruiz believes that the artefact dates back to the Terminal Classic or early Postclassic Period, between 800 AD and 900 AD.

Mendicuti Perez added that the artefact was found upside down at a depth of about 58 centimetres (22.8 inches).

She said that this suggests that the artefact once formed part of the archway’s eastern wall and that it was found face down after the wall collapsed and it fell off it.

Archaeologist Santiago Alberto Sobrino Fernandez analysed the disc and said that it depicts two people dressed as ball players, standing in front of a ball

One of the players can be seen wearing a feathered headdress and sash featuring a flower-shaped element, probably a water lily, the statement said. The disc also depicts a scroll near the player’s face, which the statement said could be interpreted either “as breath or voice”.

The other player can be seen wearing a headdress as well, but this one they said was distinctly in the Itza style. The statement added that the other player also sports ballcourt protectors.

Other experts are now working on the artefact to restore it and preserve it.


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