BALLGAME Sessions: Ancient Sports as pictured in the Art and Archaeology of Mexico, Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala.


Discussion of ballgame yokes, ballgame hachas, ballgame palmas.


FLAAR offers education and references to art history, anthropology, architectural history, art history, society and culture. You can join an expedition and do field work in the Maya area. We also offer travel and tour programs.


(Symposium) FEBRUARY 11 AND FEBRUARY 12 1998


Aztec || Olmec || Teotihuacan || Mixtec || Toltec || Maya || Zapotec cultures

ballcourt macaw ballcourt macaw
Copan ball court macaw goal stone and decoration, Copan Ruinas, Honduras



New and Additional Information on the Ancient Mesoamerican Ballgame


ballplayer figurine
Museo Carlos Pellicer, Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico

The material today has never before been shown at Maya meetings elsewhere. Several volumes of workbooks are available, sold individually average $35 to $45 per volume, total price for participants at discount is $120 plus sales tax for all that are available. Purchase of these volumes gives you your tickets to the both days of Maya, Aztec, Mixtec, and Tajin ballgame lectures: polychrome vases, bowls, plates and stone sculpture.


Professor Nicholas Hellmuth has appeared on TV documentaries, radio and TV talk shows, and has been invited to many major international conferences of the sports on native American prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the New World. Now his experience and knowledge about the Aztec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Olmec, Mixtec, and Maya ballgames is available to the general public, in a special two-day international lecture series presented at the annual Maya Symposium held in Cocoa, Florida.


The Maya Symposium was held on the campus of Brevard Community College, Cocoa Campus, adjacent to Cocoa Beach, less than 1 hour from the ORLANDO International Airport. This two-day series of slide lectures is ideal for families, and people from all backgrounds.


February 11, 1998


Ballgame Part I - Guatemala & Mexico Sculpture Slide Lectures


9:30-11:00 All Maya Sculptural Art of Mexico which shows the Ballgame.

11:30-1 p.m. All Maya Murals and Sculpture of Guatemala which Show Ballgames.


2:00-2:30 p.m. All Copan Ballgame Sculptures.

2:30-3:30 p.m. All Six Site Q Ballgames Sculptures.


4:00-4:20 p.m. Belize Ballplayer Sculptures: Pusilha, Caracol, and Lubaantun.

4:30-5:15 p.m. The Iconography of all eight Bilboa Cotzmalhuapa Ballgame Sculptures.


February 12, 1998


Ballgame Part II - Maya Art History and Archaeology


9:15-9:45 All Polychrome Maya Plates from Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Peten which show hunting deer or peccary.

9:45-10:45 All Polychrome Maya Bowls and Vases which show Hunting: The Relation of Hunter's Hats and Skirts with Ballplayer Outfits.


11:00-12:00 All Maya Polychrome Vases: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, which show the ancient Ballgames.


1:00-1:30 God L Headdresses: Warriors and their Relation to Ballplayer Headdresses.

1:30-2:45 All Carved Maya vases (Chochola Style, Mexico) which show the ballgame being played by individual wearing the insignia of bottle captives.


4:00-5:00 Yokes and Hachas as Ballgame Gear and as an Art Form.

5:00-6:00 The Ballgame Decapitation Panels from El Tajin, Veracruz (including two ballplayer panels in the site museum). 

There is no charge for speakers to attend, no charge for INAH, IDAEH, IHAH, or Department of Archaeology (Belize), UNAM, or Universidad de San Carlos archaeologists. Children attending this lecture are free if accompanied by parent with purchased tickets.


The Aztec were still playing the game when the Spaniards arrived, so plenty of eyewitness descriptions are available. We will review each account of the Spanish chronicles about this amazing game. The Spanish even took an entire team, and their remarkable bouncing ball, back to Europe. A German painter, Weiditz, was so impressed with their skills that he painted them. His original drawings are still preserved in a library in Germany, and Professor Hellmuth has studied these, as well as all the codices, and all the writings of the Spanish friars who were horrified with the fact that the ballcourt was considered as a temple to pagan deities, complete with horrid statues of the monstrous gods. These two days offer a fascinating learning experience with an accomplished teacher.



Stone yokes with fabulous Olmec style carvings have been exhibited in European art gallery catalogs. Did the Olmecs of 1200 BC really have ballgame yokes? Or are these highly priced sculptures just clever forgeries? Since the practice of carving stone yokes did not begin until about one millennium after the Olmecs, who created these expensive sculptures?



The colorful murals of Teotihuacan (outside Mexico City) picture many different 6th century games being played. These paintings, on the walls of an ancient palace, are the most complete record available for the sports of this imperial capital. Learn how Teotihuacan merchant groups introduced the concept of the ballgame to their province in the Tiquisate area of Guatemala. The ballgame is a deadly battle between opposing warrior factions.



The ballcourts, ballgame traditions, outfits, and associated information on the sports of the Mixtecs are well known from the many colorful paintings of the special playing fields in the 16th century Mixtec codices which are native books painted on deerskin. We have a complete set of facsimiles of all these codices, printed in faithful reproduction by the Akademische Druck u. -Verlangsanstalt, Graz, Austria. We will hand these rare books out in class so that you can peruse them all. Copies of some of these codices are available for sale if you wish to have them for you library back home.



The Toltec capital of Tula had three ballcourts. Although it is widely considered that Toltec culture was source of much of the symbolism at the late Maya site of Chichen Itza, it turns out that the ballgame sacrifice and the concept of putting the head of the victim inside the ball was not a practice at Tula. So where did the Chichen Itza Maya get this grisly ceremony if not from the Toltecs? Professor Hellmuth has worked on solving this enigma for the last two decades. His books are available, but if you come to Florida in February you can learn all the archaeological information first-hand.



To what extent was the Maya ballgames a gladitorial Sport? The first portrait of Maya sports is on an early mural uncovered at Tikal. For the next four centuries the Maya produced countless stone sculptures and pottery vases which picture the king or other members of the elite class playing their various distinct kinds of game. You will see all of these.



The Zapotecs created the hilltop capital of Monte Alban, in Oazaca. Their stepped ballcourt is immediately to the left as you enter the main plaza area. Actually the most interesting ballgame of the Oazaca area is at the ruined city of Dainzu, alongside the highway en route to Mitla. At Dainzu the players all wear sturdy helmets and heavy gloves. The sculpture shows the players apparently trying to clobber their opponents with balls that must have been hard enough to split their skulls open.


Current location for FLAAR

The main location for FLAAR research during the last several years is in Guatemala and adjacent Honduras. FLAAR also has an office in St Louis, Missouri and is opening a research center for 3D imaging in Ljubljana, Slovenia in late 2009 or 2010.


In Guatemala our research projects are on tropical flora and fauna: iconography, ethnobotany and ethnozoology.



Obviously these meetings were in the 1990's. But we have updated this page in August. 2009 in the new page format posted July 24, 2009.
page updated March 16, 1999; links added Aug. 1, 1999