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HomeARCHEOLOGYA Unique Discovery: Unearthing a Precious Maya Ball Game Artifact

A Unique Discovery: Unearthing a Precious Maya Ball Game Artifact

The ancient Maya civilization, known for its rich cultural heritage and technological advancements, continues to captivate scholars and the general public alike. Recently, a remarkable discovery at the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, Mexico, has shed new light on the Mayan ball game and its associated rituals. Archaeologists have unearthed a rare and well-preserved stone marker from the Mesoamerican ball game, complete with a detailed hieroglyphic inscription – a truly remarkable find that provides invaluable insights into the past.

The Remarkable Discovery

Maya ball game marker found at Chichén Itzá – The History Blog

Amidst the ruins of Chichén Itzá, a team of archaeologists made a stunning discovery – a disc-shaped stone marker from the Maya ball game, known as Pok Ta Pok in the Mayan language. This circular piece of limestone, measuring 32.5 cm (12.8 inches) in diameter and weighing 40 kilos (88 lbs), is an exceptional find due to its level of preservation and the presence of a complete hieroglyphic text, a rarity in Chichén Itzá.

The Significance of the Hieroglyphic Inscription

The hieroglyphic inscription, engraved around the outer border of the stone marker, provides a wealth of information about the Mayan ball game and its associated rituals. The text includes a short count date that translates to the year 894 A.D., making this inscription one of the last significant hieroglyphic texts about the ball game to survive before the Mayan collapse and the demise of their writing system.

The Iconography and Representation

Archaeologists uncover ancient Maya ball court used as a ritual centre | Ancient Origins

The center of the stone marker features two figures engaged in the Mesoamerican ball game. The figure on the left is adorned with a feathered headdress and a flowered sash, while the figure on the right wears a snake turban and protective equipment commonly associated with the game. The presence of a scroll hovering in front of the left figure’s face likely represents a voice or exhalation, suggesting a specific ritual or event related to the ball game.

The Architectural Context

The stone marker was discovered within the architectural complex of the Chichanchob, also known as the Casa Colorada or Casa Roja, one of the best-preserved monumental structures in the city of Chichén Itzá. This structure, built in the Terminal Classic period (ca. 800-920) in the Puuc architectural style, had a small ball game court added to its back wall shortly after its construction.

Preservation and Analysis

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The stone marker was found upside-down, less than two feet under the surface of the ground, likely having been part of the east wall of an access arch leading into the Casa Colorada complex. INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) conservators have begun a desalination process and cleaning with distilled water to preserve the artifact. Researchers have also employed the photogrammetry technique, capturing high-resolution images to create a 3D model of the disc for detailed study and a full translation of the inscription.

Conclusion

The discovery of this rare Maya ball game stone marker with a complete hieroglyphic text is a remarkable achievement in the ongoing efforts to uncover and preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Mayan civilization. This artifact, with its intricate iconography and valuable inscriptions, offers a unique glimpse into the rituals and practices associated with the Mesoamerican ball game, shedding light on a crucial aspect of Mayan society. As researchers continue to study and analyze this remarkable find, the insights gained will undoubtedly contribute to our broader understanding of the Maya, their beliefs, and their sophisticated cultural traditions.

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