Skip to main content

Ceremonial Ballgame Yoke (work of art)

Artwork Info

Artist Details
Mexican (Veracruz state)
-
Medium
Sculpture, Stone
Created
circa 250–900
Dimensions
Height, width, and length:
4 1/2 x 14 1/4 x 16 inches (11.4 x 36.2 x 40.7 centimeters)

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • One of the earliest known sports that involved the use of a ball was played by the Maya people (circa 550 to 850) and was known as “the ballgame.” 
  • Yokes were made of padded leather or wood and were worn at mid-body to protect the torso and direct the heavy rubber ball during the ballgames. 
  • Carved stone yokes like this one were used for ceremonial purposes, such as emblems or trophies. 
  • The yoke was carved to resemble a frog.

Learn More

Players of the Ancient Mesoamerican ballgame wore wide, padded, belt-like yokes made of wood, rubber, or leather, to prevent injury from the heavy rubber ball. Compare this ballgame yoke to the ballcourt marker, which depicts a Maya ballgame player wearing a yoke. The ballgame is still played among indigenous peoples in Mexico. The object of the game is to keep the ball in the air by striking it with any part of the body, except for the hands. Heavy stone yokes (this one weighs 45 pounds) were ceremonial items. Yokes found in burial tombs indicate the status of the deceased person. This yoke is carved to look like a frog. Large eyes and a broad mouth (with a tongue sticking out) cover the front, with the front legs tucked behind. The frog’s hind legs are in a crouched position at the back end of the yoke.

tags: force, function, play, ritual, ceremony, animals

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers

 

Resources for Young Students

  • Watch an animated clip from the Disney movie, The Road to El Dorado, which depicts  a toned-down version of the ancient ballgame being played.

 

Resources for More Mature Students

  • Watch a video to discover how a Maya legend inspired a deadly ballgame.
  • Watch a video to understand how the ancient ballgame was played.
  • Watch a video to learn how the ancient ballgame “Ulama” is still being played.

Images

  • A carved stone yoke used in an ancient Mesoamerican ballgame.

    Ceremonial Ballgame Yoke by Unknown Veracruz Artist

  • A carved stone yoke used in an ancient Mesoamerican ballgame.

    Ceremonial Ball Game Yoke

  • A carved stone yoke used in an ancient Mesoamerican ballgame.

    Ceremonial Ball Game Yoke

Related Concepts

Credit

Gift of Mrs. Ann G. Nisenson