General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 24 Jan 2021/9 Vulture
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The Maya hieroglyph for a ritual ball court, with miniature Aztec equivalent in one corner

The Classic Maya ball court hieroglyph

Some of us have expressed curiosity at noticing that the (Classic) Maya hieroglyph for and representation of a ritual ball court appears only to show ‘half’ the court, when compared to ballcourt depictions in Central Mexican iconography! Why might this be? Well, it’s all a question of perspective... (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Chaak sits over a ballcourt cradling a rubber ball; Codex Dresden pl. 41 (detail)
Chaak sits over a ballcourt cradling a rubber ball; Codex Dresden pl. 41 (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

Skim through our other features on the ancient ritual Mesoamerican ballgame and you’ll notice that the ballcourt (in codices, for example - see above, in miniature, top left) is shown as what looks like a large capital ‘I’ - a good rendering of the real thing, and representing a classic ‘bird’s eye view’. Yet the Maya equivalent is just one half or end. Andrea Stone and Marc Zender provide us with the answer in their excellent book Reading Maya Art:-
’The hieroglyphic sign for ballcourt depicts the court from the vantage point of someone looking down the central alley. The inner walls form steps which cradle the rubber ball. A half-court glyph essentially conveys the same idea...’

Reading Maya Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Maya Painting and Sculpture by Andrea Stone and Marc Zender, Thames & Hudson, London, 2011.

Picture sources:-
• Main image scanned from Reading Maya Art (above)
Dresden Codex image scanned from our copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1975.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on May 10th 2020

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