The Way of Tlachtli Essay

The Way of Tlachtli Essay

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Since the early 1400s BCE, people of this era have played one of the earliest known forms of a sport that involves two teams and a rubber ball played on a court. Based on archaeological evidence, Tlachtli (which translates in English to “ball game”) is thought to have been played by the civilizations of Mesoamerica including the Aztec, Maya, Olmec, and Toltec. The game was more than a sport to these people. It was a means of settling conflicts and maintaining social harmony, it was a very important part in the ritualistic lives of those cultures. The most fascinating aspect of this sport is what set it apart from other ritual-based events of these cultures. Based on how you played in the ball game was a matter of life and death. As seen on murals and carvings showing the ball game, the sport was linked to rituals involving human sacrifice. Shrouded in speculation and myth, the sacred game of Tlachtli remains one of the most fascinating and intriguing mysteries of the Mesoamerica civilizations. This paper will touch basis on how this sport played a part in shaping the lives of these Pre-Columbian civilizations.

Taladoire speculates that the ball game may have originated in the coastal lowlands along the Pacific Ocean (Taladoire 2001:107-108). Archaeologists discovered the oldest known ball court at the ruins of the city of Paso de la Amada which is around 3,400 years old. According to most, around 300 BCE, Tlachtli was already found throughout most of Mesoamerica. Ceramic ball player figurines have been discovered as ceremonial internments in cities such as San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán (the last site of the Olmec civilization) and areas such as the Valley of Oaxaca.
Many archeologists are indecisive on when or where the Mesoameric...


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...ndo Horcasitas and Doris Heyden. University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.

Fox, John. "Students of the Game: Archaeologists are Researching Ulama - Oldest Sport in the Americas." Smithsonian Magazine Apr. 2006.

Heitzman, James, Schenkluhn, Wolfgang. “The world in the year 1000.” University Press of America, 2004.

Kowalewski, S. “Pre-Hispanic Ballcourts from the Valley of Oaxaca” University of Arizona Press, 1991.
Taladoire, E. and Colsenet, B. “Bois Ton Sang, Beaumanoir: The Political and Conflictual Aspects of the Ballgame in the Northern Chiapas Area” University of Arizona Press, 1991.

Taladoire, E. “Architectural background of the Pre-Hispanic ball game: an evolutionary perspective”. Charlotte, 2001.

Tokovinine, Alexandre. Divine Patrons of the Mesoamerican Ballgame. Moscow State University. http://www.mesoweb.com/features/tokovinine/Ballgame.pdf. 2002.

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