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  • Death As A Basketball April 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

    ball stairs

    Death by basketball… We examined this quaint pre-Columbian custom just last week. But what about the strangest death of them all death AS a basketball? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The place is Central America and we are in pre-Columbian times again. This is the epoch of the great ball games of the Maya and Aztecs when huge rubber balls were bounced around proto-basket ball courts to test the mettle of kings, slaves, captives and professional players. The ball players sometimes developed games where the losers (or perhaps the winners, the point is controversial) were sacrificed to the gods. But this involved having your heart ripped out at the end of the match (or as Beach suggested in his previous post, getting beating to pulp on court). There are though a series of references to a related form of sacrifice that took place at the end of said games. It seems to have been reserved for captured enemy kings and nobles. The victim would be taken up a flight of stairs on or near the ball court: the Mayan murals that describe these deaths don’t allow us to be more exact. They would then be bound up in the shape of a ball: literally tied. Then they would be bounced down the flight of stairs to their deaths. There are a couple relevant images here: that might suggest that the victim was placed inside some sort of skin or container? It should also be noted that the ball games were possibly sometimes played with rubber coated skulls: there is a ‘pleasing’ resonance here.

    bound heads

    Beach has been trying to work out what that would really involve and has managed to bundle his ageing body up into a ball form: so far so good. He has not experimented on the long stairs that lead down to the kitchen. But he is guessing – there is nothing in our derisory sources – that the victim was lifted in this bound state by two or three temple slaves and then hurled down the stairs, so nothing but the ground would stop them. Mayan stairs leading to the temple rooms – where it generally suggested ball-game sacrifices took place – and ball courts are long. But it probably is just conceivable that someone might get to the bottom with a pulse. That was probably the worst outcome though. The pre-Columbian peoples of central America had an extraordinary gift for giving and sustaining pain. If you came out of the fall then you would find that your troubles were just beginning…

    downthe stairs