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Maya bas-relief showing a ball player

ARTEFACT: Maya bas-relief showing a ball player

Maya bas-relief depicting a ball-player, 600-750 CE, La Corona, Department of El Petén, Guatemala; limestone, 37 x 28.5 cms., The National Museum of the American Indian, New York.

The image on this panel is an ‘action shot’ of a man kneeling in preparation to receive the bouncing rubber ball that formed an integral part of the ball game played throughout Mesoamerica. The two hieroglyphs in the upper right identify the subject as a ball player and possibly a jaguar deity. the ball is labelled with the numeral 9 and the hieroglyph ‘nahb’, thought to mean ‘hand-span’. It seems the ball was nine hand-spans in circumference - that is, about two feet in diameter.
This panel, believed to be from the ball court at La Corona, is one in a series that portray individuals in distinct ball-playing poses or contain hieroglyphic texts describing the events depicted. The texts suggest that these ball players were nobles, thought not necessarily rulers. The texts identify the players with enigmatic and perhaps divine titles. It is possible that they were re-creating the sacred ball game between gods in the underworld at the time of the world’s creation...


From Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, New York, Smithsonian, 2010, p. 107.

Photo by Maria Mursell/Mexicolore.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on May 26th 2014

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