General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 22 Feb 2019/9 Jaguar
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Dr. Frances Karttunen

Question for August 2015

Which was the Aztecs’ favourite game? Asked by Great Missenden CE Combined School. Chosen and answered by Dr. Frances Karttunen.

Pic 1: Odds of 260 to 1...
Pic 1: Odds of 260 to 1... (Click on image to enlarge)

While dancing and processions were going on, jars of cactus wine were set out, and in the jars were placed two hundred and sixty straws, only one of which was hollow. Then they all pushed and shoved each other to see who got the hollow straw. And when one person had clearly taken possession of it, the rest stood aside, and he got to drink all the cactus wine. Once he was thoroughly drunk, they all went home.

Pic 2: The famous ritual ballgame, played by all great ancient Mexican civilisations
Pic 2: The famous ritual ballgame, played by all great ancient Mexican civilisations (Click on image to enlarge)

(Text from ‘Primeros Memoriales’ by Fray Bernardino Sahagún, fol. 258v, translated from the original Náhuatl by Dr. Karttunen. Follow the link below to read more about the festival of which the game was part. In terms of how often a particular game was played, of course, many experts would suggest that the ritual ballgame and the board game ‘patolli’ were more ‘popular’. But as to which was actually the Aztecs’ favourite, maybe the Mexica straw poll game would have topped the charts...!)

Picture sources:-
• Pic 1: Image from the Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence) scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994
• Pic 2: Illustration by and courtesy of Steve Radzi/Mayavision.

‘The Luck of the Straw’

Go to our whole section on the ritual ballgame...

Learn much more about patolli...

Dr. Frances Karttunen has answered 3 questions altogether:

Why always THREE hearth stones?

Which was the Aztecs’ favourite game?

What’s the most interesting fact you’ve come across about the Aztecs (4)

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