"The losers in the ancient Mayan ball games were murdered and used as ball filler"
The "ball game", as it is called by researchers, is considered a particularly violent sport - with some researchers believing that the losers were murdered and their remains turned into filler for rubber balls for games
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Friday, September 23, 2022, 00:08 Updated: 00:28
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Experts begin restoration work on an ancient Mayan temple (Reuters)
The ancient ball games of the Mayans have occupied researchers for centuries - with most believing that the losers in them were sacrificed and some even estimate that the bodies of the losers were used to fill the rubber balls for the next games.
The "ball game", as researchers call it, is considered one of the most important religious and cultural aspects of the Mayans, which began around 250 AD.
Although the rules of the game are not fully known, researchers believe the game was played by two opposing teams on an 'I'-shaped court, using a rubber ball - and is considered a violent game, the Daily Beast reported.
The players wore protective equipment to prevent injuries, among other things because the game was played between stone walls - and some researchers believe that the losers of the game were brutally murdered.
Other scholars do not believe that their sacrifice was an integral - or even common - part of the game and they are unable to reach a consensus on the issue.
However, the best researchers believe that the people who died during the game were actually killed by the game itself since it was very violent.
This is where the ball games of the Mayans were held (Photo: ShutterStock)
Were the game balls of the Mayans created from the remains of the losers in the game? (Photo: ShutterStock)
The games were held in crowded I-shaped fields (Photo: ShutterStock)
This is roughly what it looks like
Plenty of courts have been discovered in ancient Mayan cities, with the game being played from present-day Arizona and New Mexico to southern Colombia - uniting large parts of Central and South America.
A chilling discovery from the past few years has led researchers to believe that the "ball game" was much scarier than they first thought.
In 2020, a team led by archaeologist Juan Yadion Angulo from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History discovered a crypt (stone chamber) over 1000 years old - under a pyramid in Tonina in Chiapas, Mexico, overlooking ball courts.
Carvings on the walls suggest: Human remains turned into game balls? (Photo: ShutterStock)
Inside the crypt, the archaeologists discovered a maze of staircases and small rooms.
The team found there about 400 vessels that once contained materials such as coal, ash, plant roots and natural rubber.
Angulo and his team noticed that the materials held there were similar to those needed to vulcanize—or harden—rubber, and they hypothesized that the ashes were the remains of actors or rulers who had been cremated.
Angulo believes that these are ancient rulers who turned to ash and were used as an ingredient in the balls and that this "transmutation of the body" made it possible to immortalize ball-shaped rulers.
More about the Mayan ball game:
At the nearby site of Yaxchilán, archaeologists discovered carved artwork on statues and walls showing actors throwing balls containing human captives, fueling the theory that the balls contained human remains.
Some researchers disagree with Angulo's theory and say that more research is needed to find a connection between the balls used in the game and the ashes of those ancient rulers.