Ball Game

The pottery figurine fragment at left shows a ballplayer with a large ball (H: 10.9 cm, W: 9.53 cm, object NA 10942). The center figure, from Roknima, is dressed in protective hip pads (H: 19.3 cm, object NA 10975) and the pottery figurine fragment at right (H: 10.16 cm, object NA 11351) may have been a dwarf, with the small ball that was used near the Pacific coast. Phot by the Penn Museum.

The pottery figurine fragment at left shows a ballplayer with a large ball (H: 10.9 cm, W: 9.53 cm, object NA 10942). The center figure, from Roknima, is dressed in protective hip pads (H: 19.3 cm, object NA 10975) and the pottery figurine fragment at right (H: 10.16 cm, object NA 11351) may have been a dwarf, with the small ball that was used near the Pacific coast. Photo by the Penn Museum.

More ritual than sport, the choreographed ceremony of the Mesoamerican ballgame recreated scenes from the Popol Vuh in which the Hero Twins compete in a ballgame against the Gods of Death. The ruler is said to have assumed the role of one of the Hero Twins, playing against a captured enemy ruler destined to lose and to be sacrificed.