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Archaeology & History

Maya may have played ball games with the ashes of their cremated rulers

By T.K. Randall
August 11, 2022 · Comment icon 3 comments

The claim has been met with some degree of skepticism. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Simon Burchell
Researchers believe that the ashes of cremated Maya rulers were used to create rubber balls used in ballgames.
The peculiar claim comes courtesy of archaeologist Juan Yadeun Angulo, and colleagues, who believe that they have found evidence of such a practice at the Maya city of Tonina in southern Mexico.

While the specifics are unclear, the Maya were known to have played a type of ballgame involving two teams of players on a court shaped like an upper case letter 'i'.

Multiple examples of such courts have been discovered in the ruins of ancient Maya cities.

The claim that human ashes were used to make the balls is based on Angulo's discovery of a crypt beneath the Temple of the Sun in Tonina which holds some 400 vessels filled with organic material.
An analysis of these materials has since revealed that they contain the cremated remains of the city's leaders and these would have likely been used to produce the rubber used in the balls.

Depictions of these rulers found on the courts themselves also seemed to add credence to the theory.

Not everyone, however, is convinced by the team's findings.

Some experts, such as anthropologist Prof James Fitzsimmons of Middlebury College in Vermont, maintain that - even if the Maya had used cremated remains for this purpose - it's highly unlikely that they would have used the remains of their rulers.

As things stand, more information will be needed before it will be possible to know for sure.

Source: Live Science | Comments (3)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by jethrofloyd 2 years ago
Where is the king? He is at the playground. In the rubber ball.
Comment icon #2 Posted by quiXilver 2 years ago
Wow, what a fascinating development to an already alien seeming passtime. I recall first encountering a deion of that game where the victors are beheaded in triumph and thinking... 'Wow, we're a snowflake military society compared to them.'
Comment icon #3 Posted by Tatetopa 2 years ago
If the game did have spiritual significance and reflect some view of cosmic order, the king being part of the ball is  a bit like the pharaoh spending the afterlife traveling across the sky in the sun boat. 

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