Saturday, January 28, 2006

Pre-Colombian Ball Games

This one I got from an extremely interesting exhibition of Pre-Colombian artifacts and culture in Latin America. It is called "Por Ti América" (website in Portuguese), and it is taking place at the CCBB Rio, in Brazil.

One of the rooms had the following bit of text:

"Ball Games in Indigenous America

Latex was know and used by many indigenous people, especially in the tropical regions of the Americas, to make the balls with which the played and still play different ball games. The rules and function of ball games varied from one people to another, and have changed over time, both before the arrival of Europeans and during the colonial period when they mixed with European practices. These functions included celebration of war and ritual execution of warriors taken captive, commemoration of the friendship between different ethnic groups, celebration of rituals of divination and betting.

(Illustration of ball game from the exhibition)

Archaeological studies show that ball games were played in mesoamerica at least 3000 years before contact with the Spaniards and that practically all important cities and ceremonial centers had fields . One of the first groups to build fields for ball games were the Olmecs, who are known as the Mesoamerican "Mother Civilization" and whose name means "people from the rubber region".

The variation of ball games rules and modalities are still unclear to scholars. In one of its forms, players from each team would position themselves in opposite sides of an "L" shaped field. One or two participants in each team would play using only the waist, ribs (note: given the word used in the Portuguese version of the text, I guess the appropriate translation would be "hips"), tights or chest to touch the ball, as feet and hands were not allowed. (...) They used mainly their ribs (note: again, "hips"?) to move the ball. The winners were the ones who managed to pass the ball through the field rings, a score which was extremely difficult"

Just some guesses here: (a) Is that why the British game of Football became so popular in all Latin America and (b) the reason the Latin American school is notorious for the use of dribbling, when players use the upper body to fool his opponent? It could be completely unrelated, though...

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Copyright, Chico Queiroz