maya, ballcourt, ballgame, mesoamerica, iconography, cosmology, worldview, ballcourt marker
One of the more commonly known aspects of the ancient Maya culture is the ballgame. This ancient ballgame was played by most Mesoamerican cultures on a constructed ballcourt and many major Mesoamerican sites have at least one, if not more than one. Contemporary Mesoamericans still play versions of this ballgame today, but without the use of the ballcourts, questioning the importance and purpose of the ballcourt that is no longer the case today. After over a century of research, scholars have yet to unravel all the cosmological and mythological mysteries of the ballcourt and its purpose to the ancient Maya. Although the archaeological record rarely supports the well-known Postclassic Hero Twin myth, most scholars continue to use this myth to interpret Classic ballgame iconography. In this study, I link Classic period ballcourt architecture and iconography at Caracol to Preclassic cache practices, to an Early Classic tomb, and to an elite Classic structure, demonstrating a widespread set of cosmological symbols that were not exclusively reserved for the ballcourt. I suggest that the four eroded figures on Caracol Ballcourt Markers 1 and 2 represent east, west, zenith, and nadir, and that the north-south alignment of Classic Southern Lowland ballcourts was the result of a vertical visualization of the three ballcourt markers. This study shows that the Maya ballcourt was a cosmogram, intended to delineate sacred space and demarcate a portal into the underworld.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Holden, Patsy, "Ballcourt Iconography At Caracol, Belize" (2009). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4031.