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History | In hard stone, ancient ball-playing exploits remain
Posted By John Turnbull On 6 March 2008 @ 22:53 In Caribbean,History,Latin America | 2 Comments
Ongoing exhibits in Chicago and Washington, D.C., feature artifacts of ball-playing in Mesoamerican cultures as part of larger surveys of the ancient Americas.
“The Ancient Americas ” at the Field Museum and “Exploring the Early Americas ” at the Library of Congress depict the interaction of Maya, Aztec, Inca, Taíno and other Mesoamerican civilizations with European explorers (see New York Times review ). In Washington, curators have placed several ball-playing relics on display, including the Taíno ceremonial belt  (see above) and a well-known limestone bas-relief  of a Maya player in headdress (see 30 Jun 07  for more on the Maya ball games). The online version of the Field Museum exhibition includes a picture of a small ball court in Tikal , now part of the Petén region of northern Guatemala.
In Washington one can see a Diego Rivera  watercolor commissioned for a 1931 edition of the Popol Vuh, the Maya creation tale that features the ball-playing exploits of the first four humans.
“Now it still ripples, now it still murmurs, ripples, it still sighs, still hums, and it is empty under the sky,” the story begins. Summarizes E. Michael Whittington in the introduction to The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame (Thames & Hudson, 2001)—the companion catalog to an exhibition mounted several years ago by the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina:
Beginning in a time of profound quiet and stillness, the gods made the earth and all its creatures, they planted the first maize, and, finally, they created humanity. The actions of the gods were models for human behavior. Not coincidentally, the gods were terrific ballplayers. The Popol Vuh establishes the absolute preeminence of the ballgame in ancient Maya mythology and life. … The story’s protagonists, the Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are ballplayers without peers, talents they inherited from their deity fathers. (17)
Article printed from The Global Game: http://www.theglobalgame.com/blog
URL to article: http://www.theglobalgame.com/blog/2008/03/history-in-hard-stone-ancient-ball-playing-exploits-remain/
URLs in this post:
 Taíno ball game: http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/prvi/pr25.htm
 The Ancient Americas: http://www.fieldmuseum.org/ancientamericas/exhibition.asp
 Exploring the Early Americas: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/earlyamericas/
 review: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/arts/design/05amer.html
 Taíno ceremonial belt: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/earlyamericas/online/precontact/enlarge14.html
 limestone bas-relief: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/earlyamericas/online/precontact/enlarge11.html
 30 Jun 07: http://www.theglobalgame.com/blog/?p=258
 small ball court in Tikal: http://www.fieldmuseum.org/ancientamericas/popUps/RC29.html
 Diego Rivera: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/earlyamericas/online/precontact/enlarge20.html
 : http://history-nz.org/kiorahi.html
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