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Profs & Pints DC: Ancient America’s Ball Game

March 20, 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 5:30 pm UTC+0

$2 – $12.

Profs and Pints DC presents: “Ancient America’s Ball Game,” a look at the roughly 3,400-year history of the first known team sport, with Jeffrey P. Blomster, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University whose archaeological research focuses on the Mixtec, Zapotec, and Olmec peoples.

Nearly three and a half millennia before today’s ball teams took to the field, ancient Mesoamericans fielded teams to move a ball up and down a court. The details of this ancient game are lost in time, but it appears to have involved putting a rubber ball through a stone hoop. There’s evidence that it sometimes was played as a proxy for going to war, or involved wagers of children or lives, or human sacrifice.

Come learn what we know—and are still trying to determine—about the roots and history of such contests from Professor Jeffrey P. Blomster, whose archeological examinations of ancient ball courts in Oaxaca is helping shed new light on the game’s origins.

Dr. Blomster will explain how what is known as “the Mesoamerican ballgame” is not one game, but several similar ones, with the most widely played variation involving the use of the hips to move a rubber ball. They were played on ballcourts consisting of a long alley with an end zone on either side, ancient public architecture that, having been built from stone, in many cases remains somewhat intact today.

Intertwined with economics, politics and religion, such games played a crucial role in all pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica—a region that includes most of modern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The variations that we know most about were those played by the Maya and by the Aztec, who still played it at the time of the Spanish invasion but not well-documented. A game descended from the Aztec one, known as Ulama, is still played in the Mexican state of Sinaloa today.

Professor Blomster will discuss other scholars’ research on the ballgame and talk about how his own research on two early ballcourts in Oaxaca could have major implications for our understanding of it. Those fascinating by ancient Mesoamerican civilizations or by archaeology will have a ball hearing him speak. (Advance tickets: $12. Doors: $15, or $13 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later. Please allow yourself time to place any orders and get seated and settled in. Bring proof of vaccination and a mask, as both may be required in response to local infection rates. The Bier Baron will be requiring event attendees to purchase a minimum of two items, which can be food or beverages, including soft drinks.)

Image: A Mayan ballgame in action as depicted on a Mayan vase. Cropped from a photo by Justin Kerr / Mayavase Database / Public domain.


March 20, 2022
3:00 pm - 5:30 pm UTC+0
$2 – $12.
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Profs and Pints
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The Bier Baron Tavern
1523 22nd Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20037 United States
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202 293-1888
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