General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
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Ballgame offering

Aztec (Mexica) ballgame offering

Ballgame offering, c. 1500 CE, Aztec (Mexica), greenstone, obsidian, alabaster; length 36 cms (ballcourt), 4 and 6.5 cms (log drums), 4.5 cms (tortoise shell), 7 cms (drum stick); diameter 11 and 11.5 cms (symbolic balls); height 6 cms (vertical drum) National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

When the Spanish friar Bernardino de Sahagún asked his native informants to describe the ancient ceremonial precinct of Tenochtitlan, they mentioned 78 buildings. Of the two ball-game courts they spoke of, the most important was the Teotlachco. Its exact position was not discovered until work carried out in the late 1990s on the foundations of the Cathedral in Mexico City revealed its presence beneath the Chapel of All Souls. The present offering was found behind the Cathedral in 1967, during construction of the Metro. The shape of the ball-game court was re-created in a Mezcala-style model. The miniature instruments are Mixtec in style: tortoise-shell drum (centre), upright ‘huehuetl’ drum with stick (left on table), two ‘teponaztlis’ (horizontal tongue/log drums). The balls, one made of obsidian, the other of white alabaster, represent the two main stages in the sun’s journey, day and night.

(Adapted from the Royal Academy exhibition catalogue ‘Aztecs’, p. 470).

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

Learn a bit more about the ritual ballgame...