Chichén Itzá has the most well preserved and grandiose of the Ball Courts of the Mayan civilization. They used the place to play the famous “Juego de Pelota” -ball game, or “Pok-Ta-Pok” the original name given by the Maya people.
How did the Maya play their ball game? Nobody knows for sure how the Mayas played the game. Many believe it was with a rubber ball where the players of two teams had to throw the ball through the stone hoops sculpted alongside the slanted walls of the ball court without using their hands. The Maya associated the ball game with the worship of the sun that is born every day abandoning the darkness.
According to ArteHistoria, a site specializing in spreading the knowledge of art and history, the field represented the earth and the ball represented the sun, therefore a player who let the ball fall had to be sacrificed. The hoop represented the opening of the earth to the sun, and when the ball went through successfully the game was over.
In the Popol Vuh, which is the book that narrates the Maya creation story, twin heroes play against the lords of the underworld, the winners keep their lifes.
The Chichén Itzá Ball Court measures 272 by 199 feet, which is similar to the dimensions of a football field.
When arriving at the Ball Court at Chichén Itzá, you immediately notice the excellent acoustics of the place. It is amazing to hear a person talking at the opposite side when you are standing at the North Temple some 443 feet away.
The walls of the field have carvings showing Maya ball players with special attires and heavy protective padding.
One of the most impressive scenes is one depicting a headless player on his knees with blood coming out of his neck and another player holding the head.
Temple of the Skulls
When you come into the Ball Court you can see a temple at each end. The North Temple has sculpted figures and pillars, and some murals.
If you look at the southeastern corner you can see the Temple of the Jaguars with sculpted figures of jaguars and warriors alongside columns with serpents.
Directly opposite to the Temple of the Jaguars is the Temple of the Skulls. Careful inspection shows a row of skulls sculpted into the stone platform. These skulls are the heads of those who lost the game, therefore their heads were cut off and put on a pole to be displayed.
What a great view. When you visit make sure you slow down and feel the energy of the place. That is what really makes the Chichén Itzá ruins an unforgettable experience, even for a little one like this one in the picture.