Chichen Itza Part I - The Mayan Ballgame and sacrifice

in travel •  2 months ago 

I have waited a while to post my favourite Mexico experiences as I just took TOO many photos and had so many to edit it was a bit overwhelming but finally I am getting through things. This is going to be a long post as there is a lot going on at the Mayan Ruins, so long in fact that I decided to split it into two parts to make it a little less overwhelming for myself to cover everything. We took a tour so we only got two hours there, one hour with the guide and one hour alone. Because we wanted to see both of the things you have to walk to that took up most of our personal time. I think doing the tour is good for your first visit, so you know what everything is and the history but then I would DEFINITELY have liked a few more hours alone on a separate visit to just meditate and take in the energy. It's very difficult to do that when your rushing around and wanting to see everything in a limited time. I would have also liked a lot more time to look around all the various stalls.

When you first enter Chichen Itza there are rows of stalls, with different hand made gifts. I personally am a little skeptical they are hand made as all the stores seem to have identical pieces and then you can find a lot of them around other areas of Mexico that are identical to the finest detail. I did see a couple of people with wood carvings in their hands filing, but they didn't have any other tools or paints etc so I have to be honest I have a little bit of a suspicion that they don't just have one on show to make it seem like they are working on them themselves. Perhaps someone else can clarify this for me, but my intuition is a lot are mass bought and made to seem like they are hand made. Even so they add to the atmosphere and it is a great place to get some souvenirs to take back and support the locals, be ready to haggle though and walk away because they will over price everything a LOT. They also like to say things are a dollar, they really mean a Mayan dollar and then will proceed to say the thing they said was a dollar was 30 dollars lol. I even had a guy tell me his stuff was 1 pesos, thats 0.04 p. They will pretty much say anything to get you over.

The ancient Mayans used obsidian blades for bloodletting rituals and a lot were on the stores, they were very beautifully carved, obsidian was used for it's sharpness as it allowed them to behead people quickly and less painfully. In Mayan culture ritual sacrifice was considered an honour and those being sacrificed were mostly elite and high ranking.
Ritualised sacrifice was performed throughout Mayan culture, mostly by religious or political leaders and involved piercing a soft body part, most commonly the tongue, ear or foreskin, and collecting the blood to smear directly on the idol or collecting it on paper after which, it was burned. The gory rituals from the Mayan games I will discuss more further down.

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We got this little baby jaguar that you blow into to recreate animal noises, they also had a bird, an owl and various other animals. I have to say they really got me with it not once, but twice lol. They are really good at playing them and I am such a jumpy person with sudden scares, I regularly scream out loud in horror movies even when I know it's coming. When I heard a big cat noise behind me I jumped out my skin and screamed but Peter really wanted one so we bought one of the little ones.

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Here is my full walk around the site :

So one of the main areas at Chichen Itza is the ballgame arena. The acoustics here were insane and everyone was walking around whistling and clapping, you can't even imagine how it would feel if there was a whole crowd there. The Mayan ball games were a huge part of Mayan culture.

What was the Mayan ball game? We were told the game was made up of two teams, each team would have 14 players, these were said to represent the 13 zodiac signs, some people are not aware we have 13 signs that include ophiuchus and then the final player would be sacrificed. Although other experts suggest there were only two or three people on a team. The two teams would compete against each other to get a large rubber ball through a stone ring. The ball had to be kept off the ground using only knees, elbows, or hips, never the hands or feet. It is said that it was actually very rare that they would ever get the ball through the ring and that wasn't the main point of the game but if it happened was considered to be exceptional. If it did go through a ring the game would end there and then, otherwise it would be when the ball touched the ground.

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Now here comes the bit that is still up for debate, who was sacrificed during these games if anyone? The tour guide told us the winners of the game were sacrificed as when they studied the remains they were all of royal decent which, suggested that the winners of the game were the ones to face their deaths, since in Mayan times it was considered an honour to be sacrificed as only the best could be sent up to the Gods. Ancient cultures did not see death in the way that we do today. However, many experts believe that this is not in fact true and that many times no one was sacrificed and the game was played more for recreation but on occasions the head of the losing team would be sacrificed, other experts believe that they would simply use the games to sacrifice those that were going to be sacrificed anyway.

There is no fixed consensus on this, so anything is possible at this point. Who do you think was sacrificed? The winners or the losers.

There are still stone Carvings around the ball park, these gruesome carvings show a man with a sword holding up the head of one of the sacrifices and the left over body spraying blood everywhere, further supporting the idea that someone was sacrificed at the end of the game.

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There were many other symbols around from Dragon heads to snakes:

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A 10 minute walk to the left of the main site was the 'sacred cenote'. According to Mayan culture, valuables and human bodies were thrown into the cenote as a form of sacrifice to the rain god Chaac. Between 1904 and 1910 Edward Herbert Thompson dredged the Cenote and recovered artifacts of gold, jade, pottery, and incense, as well as human remains. The remains were examined in 2007, there were 78 individual skulls available for study, and of these 43 were sub-adults, 23 are adult males or probable males, and 12 were adult females. In total, it was estimated that the collection included around 127 individuals based on the presence of lower leg bones found, however the actual number of individuals who were sacrificed to the cenote is probably much larger.

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Not all sinkholes had the same purpose, some were considered sacred, believed to be a passage to the underworld, and others were accessed for freshwater and even bathing for royalty.

Part II coming soon.

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An incredible post, thank you for sharing. I had to laugh at your description of the Mexican market. I lived for many years in Tucson, which is an hour from the border. I made a living for years at the swap meet, which is run similar to how the Mexican markets do, as most of the folks there are either Mexican or of Mexican descent. A true free market, unlike the the supposed free markets always talked of in the States. I loved the bartering, and so much about that form of market.

You'll laugh at this. Many decades ago I had the image of the poor Mexican in my mind. It was one of my first times selling at the market. This older Mexican couple were bantering with me over the price, and we had it locked down to within a quarter of their highest offer. I took the offer, and I shit you not, the man took a roll of dollars out of his pocket to pay me and I had to make lots of change. I mean there was literally thousands of dollars in his roll. I was flabbergasted that with that stack he invested so much time over bantering about a quarter. I learned a lot about bartering in a real free market and am thankful for the experience.

Your pictures are astounding, what a time you must have had. I've heard as well about the story of that game, always that the winners died. I always thought if i was playing, my team would always be losers if I could help it, lol.

Thanks for sharing and looking forward to part two.

I reckon they have a super high quality of life over there thanks to unknowing tourists lol

Haha yeah I also ended up being dragged into some marble game my friend wanted to pay there and they had bum bags spilling out with dollars lol

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