"An Ancient Ballcourt in Oaxaca Expands a Sport’s Footprint" Discussion Thread

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This article in mentioning the date of the oldest known ballcourts provided me with another one of those hangfire epiphanies that seem to be occurring with greater frequency these days. About 15 years ago I encountered some “Indian marbles” that had been retrieved from an archaeological site up in Oklahoma. Some were made of fired clay and some were made from stone. This was the first time I’d ever heard of such things but apparently they were well known to local artifact collectors up there. It took some time to get more information on them with regard to dates and cultural associations. Eventually some of the more knowledgeable informed me that the displaced tribes had a long association with them and had in fact taught the first European settlers how to make them as well as some masonry techniques that I found even more intriguing since that region of North America is not generally known for megalithic architecture. As time went by I discovered that there had been games played with larger stone balls about the size of a bowling ball though not in the manner of the Mesoamerican ball games with hard rubber balls. Again scant evidence in the professional literature seemed to point to a Mississippian (the flowering of the temple mound building ) cultures that occurred roughly at the same time of the earliest ballcourts. A long observed Mesoamerican influence had staunchly been denied until relatively recently so I continued to think these balls had developed in the East. At one point a collector selling these “Indian marbles” on Ebay in his promotional blurb claimed that examples of larger ones dating to 6,000 years ago had been found in Central Texas. A tediously difficult effort to verify that date and evidence led to several other fortuitous but seemingly unrelated discoveries revolving around spheroid artifacts of great antiquity most of which were heatedly contested even among the professional discoverers and their peers. Eventually like tesselated pavements and orthogonal joint fractured walls I resigned myself to accept that these were enigmas I would never resolve and posted photos of the more interesting ones on my website as geological oddities with minimal comment or interpretation; eye candy. Then last year I was again sucked back into this insoluble mental tar pit connecting Mississippian cultures with the Southwest Chaco civilization and the still mysterious Teotihuacan. After my grand epiphany at the Lomaki, Wupatki , and Aztec sites that gave me the chutzpah to tentatively announce “Eureka!” , this ancient ballcourt article just tossed another big cherry on the cake. Thanks again Atlas Obscuristas!!!

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Interesting article. I was aware that Ball courts were also found in various settlements throughout Arizona, as well as Mexico. I was surprised to hear that teams of Aztec ball players were sent to Spain to demonstrate their sport. I wonder what happened to those unfortunate souls.

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Near Ziahuatenjo GRO. Mexico there is a large ball court and several adobe brick pyramids as well as a small museum.

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I remember visiting Zihuatenejo back in the '70’s but the ruins had not been excavated and nobody mentioned them. Zihuatenejo itself was just an exotic name that only a very few of my friends in Texas had ever heard of. I was the only one that had actually been there. It was a very friendly town that prided itself on its textiles which you could watch being woven on hand looms at a market downtown.

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