Sport and Ritual as Social Bonding: The Communal Nature of Mesoamerican Ballgames

Author(s): Marijke Stoll; David S. Anderson

Year: 2015


For over a century, the Mesoamerican ballgame has received copious attention in the academic literature. Much of this attention, however, has focused on either the control and promulgation of the game by elite actors, or the game’s interconnections with indigenous cosmogonies. Because of this intense focus on the game as elite and/or ritual practice, we often lose sight of the communal role it may have held. Anthropological research into the cultural role of sport suggests that while sport can create inequalities through the nature of competition, it can also serve as an integrative force within a community through team bonding. In this paper, we argue that archaeological evidence from our research in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Yucatan, as well as data from additional sites throughout Mesoamerica, suggests that ballgames primarily served a community-building role and were not solely a function of elite political theater. This interpretation is further supported through both ethnohistoric and ethnographic evidence, ultimately bringing us to a new understanding of Mesoamerican ballgames as not simply a spectacle of elite ritual, but instead as an integrative communal tradition.

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Cite this Record

Sport and Ritual as Social Bonding: The Communal Nature of Mesoamerican Ballgames. David S. Anderson, Marijke Stoll. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394866)


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min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;