The Ball Court, Coba, Mexico


The ancient game of Pok-A-Tok or Pitz was played in the Ball court of Coba , which though not as large as the one at Chichinitze, is still enormous. Two teams of seven athletes would compete in this vicious yet ritualistic sacred game. According to Mayan beliefs, their deities enjoyed watching and admired the victors. Before the game, the players prayed to Hunahpú, a Mayan god who was however sacrificed after losing a game.

The players had to kick the ball with their hips, elbows, knees, and forearms and not let it drop – as that indicated a ‘bad sign’ – and once the ball passed through the rings on the walls, the game was over.  Only the best warriors of the community could participate in one of the two teams. Players wore headdresses and paint, leather skirts or loincloths, and  hip-protectors to cushion the impact of the ball and to increase the speed of the rebound.

Coba  is an ancient Mayan city on the Yucatan Peninsula first settled by a sizable agricultural population between 50 BC and 100 AD.  It contains many engraved and sculpted stelae that document ceremonial life and important events of the Late Classic Period (AD 600–900) of the Meso American civilization. The peak of Coba’s monumental architecture took place in the middle and late Classic period, about 500 to 900 AD, with most of the dated hieroglyphic inscriptions from the 7th century . Coba remained an important site in the Post-Classic era and new temples were built and old ones kept in repair until at least the 14th century, possibly as late as the Spanish invasion.

Of the visible excavations are shaded walkways that are the original sacbe (white roads), three settlements that show the architecture and vast area of this once large city, 2 ball courts and highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan, Nohoch Mul.


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