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Mexican Archaeologists Discover a Second Ballgame Player at Court in Cerro del Teul, Zacatecas
The stone sculpture represents the body of a ballgame player (a 175 centimeters high cylinder with 56 centimeters diameter figure) and is almost complete. Photo: DMC,INAH/H. Montaño.

MEXICO CITY.- Researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH Mexico) discovered a second sculpture of a ballgame player, which, unlike the one found in late 2010, has its head. The finding took place at Cerro del Teul Archaeological Site, Zacatecas, and specialists say both pieces could evoke a passage of Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya people, related to divine twins.

The stone sculpture, discovered a few weeks ago, represents the body of a ballgame player (a 175 centimeters high cylinder with 56 centimeters diameter figure) and is almost complete. It was located in the southwestern corner of the Ballgame Court, during the field season headed by archaeologists Peter Jimenez and Laura Solar, who considered that it must have fallen after a wall collapsed due to the passing of time.

Cerro del Teul is one of the few uninterruptedly occupied sites in America, being dwelled from 200 BC to 1531 of the Common Era. Experts coincide this was the ceremonial center of Caxcan people, one of the bravest groups Spaniards fought during the conquest. The sculpture has been dated between 900 and 1100 of the Common Era.

Archaeologist Luis Martinez Mendez, in charge of excavations at Cerro del Teul Ballcourt, explained that both sculptures are unique in Mesoamerica. Only at Maya archaeological sites such as Tonina, in Chiapas, these types of sculptures have been found, only they represent captives, not players as in Zacatecas.

Evidence shows that only one was built with a head. Regarding the possible symbolism of the sculptures, they may refer to a widely divulgated myth in Mesoamerica that got to our days thanks to the Popol Vuh Maya book.

According to the book, Lords of Xibalba required the presence of divine twins Hunahpu and Ixbalanque. Through the road of underground, the brothers had to sort several tests and at the House of the Bat, Hunahpu was beheaded. Braveness and skills allowed Ixbalanque bringing his brother back to life, deceiving Lords of Xibalba at the ballgame court at the same time.

Both figures show their right arm over the chest and the left over the abdomen. Shoulders are enhanced probably recreating the players’ attire, protective shoulder pads, yokes at the hips and long skirts.

Luis Martinez explained that the second sculpture was found during work at the southern section of Cerro del Teul Ballgame Court. A probing well was made to explore archaeological strata, confirming there was a sculpture similar to the one found in 2010.

According to the Oriental Conjunct of Cerro del Teul map made by geodesic engineer Carl de Berghes in 19th century, there were several Prehispanic structures, among them the ballgame court, representing sculptures at the 4 corners. From the other pair of sculptures, only a fragment that could be a shoulder has been found at the northern sector.

Archaeological research must wait until restorers from INAH National Coordination of Cultural Heritage Conservation lift and consolidate the sculpture that presents cracks and fractures.

Martinez declared that exploration and consolidation of the archaeological site for the public visit would be ready to operate in 2012.

The researcher remarked that the ballgame court had a first operation stage between 600 and 900 of the Common Era. A second stage developed between 900 and 1100 AD, when masonry was used at the court, element of a different architectural style.

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