The Late Classic Ballgame and Cross-Cultural Interaction at Xochicalco, El Tajín, and Copán

Author(s): Andrew Turner; Rex Koontz

Year: 2017


The proliferation of ballcourts at major sites such as El Tajín and Xochicalco during the Late Classic period suggests that the Mesoamerican ballgame and its associated architectural features played a crucial role in the expression of power and identity in the tumultuous centuries that followed the collapse of Teotihuacan. This paper investigates the role of Late Classic ballcourts in fostering, shaping, and manifesting cross-cultural interaction through focus on sites from three different regions: Xochicalco in Central Mexico, El Tajín on the Gulf Coast, and Copán in the Southern Maya Lowlands. While several earlier scholars have noted distinct similarities in ballgame art and architecture shared among these sites, they have been hesitant to explain how and why such features should be shared across vast distances. As focal points of public ritual and spectacle, ballcourts served as spaces that mediated cross-cultural interaction, and may have been constructed in part to impress visiting dignitaries or merchants from distant allied or rival polities. Likewise, similarities in ballgame architecture and associated artistic embellishment could signal mutual affiliation to foreign visitors, and thus may have been prone to emulation among different cities.

Cite this Record

The Late Classic Ballgame and Cross-Cultural Interaction at Xochicalco, El Tajín, and Copán. Andrew Turner, Rex Koontz. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430911)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14580