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Villagers installing a water pipe discover 1,000 year old ancient ball game statue in Mexico
There are indications that the 1.65-meter (5-foot-4) tall statue, which depicts a bow-legged ballplayer with his arms crossed, was built onto an I-shaped ball game field before it was buried and could be more than 1,000 years old. Mesoamericans would paint objects in red and "kill" them by breaking them as offerings for rituals at the end of calendar cycles. Photo: Pablo Sereno/INAH.

Translated by: Cristina Perez Ayala

OMETEPEC.- An ancient granite statue depicting a player from a pre-Hispanic ball game, which could be over 1,000 years old, was discovered recently in the pre Hispanic site of Piedra Labrada, in the municipality of Ometepec, Guerrero. This element was a part of one of the five spaces registered in the area, dedicated to the practice of this ancient ritual; it is also one of the biggest located in the Costa Chica region.

The finding took place some weeks ago, when members of a community settled in the surrounding area were installing a water pipe. This event was reported to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in that entity.

This element was discovered in the north section an area where the biggest ball game platform is located. The ball game court has an “I” shape and is up to 40 meters [131.23 feet] long.

In Mesoamerica, a great quantity of sculptures and offerings where subject to diverse rites, most of them linked to the end of a cycle. In an “end of cycle” ritual, sculptures were painted red and where then “killed”, meaning they were fragmented and buried, said Pablo Sereno who is in charge of the investigation project.

“Of the five ball games, three had sculptures of snake heads in their surroundings, and now that this stele has come to light we know that the northern part of the court also has been associated with sculptural elements. However, this design had not been previously documented.

“Given the importance of the piece and the context that surrounds it, we have proposed an excavation project of this area to the Archaeology Council at INAH. This way we can try to locate ceramic materials that can contribute to increase the knowledge about its temporality and origin. The stele is actually kept in the local police station”, added the archaeologist of INAH Guerrero.

Pablo Sereno explained that the pre Hispanic site of Piedra Labrada has an area of two square kilometers [1.24 square miles], where a mapping process has been developing for the past year and a half in order to pinpoint its principal characteristics, such as the dimensions of its buildings, the distribution of its plazas and the sculptural material in the area.

To date we have identified nearly 50 buildings of medium proportions (3 to 5 meters [9.8 to 16.4 feet] high) which are distributed over diverse platforms; apart from five ball games and more than 20 sculptures of diverse proportions corresponding to snake heads, snails and anthropomorphic figures.

“The existence of ball games of great dimensions related to temples and big public plazas makes us realize that Piedra Labrada was a city with great ritualistic importance.

“The possible antiquity of the zone —considering the Mixtec style shaped sculptures and the way they are distributed through plazas that evoke certain characteristics of the Epiclassic—, could date back to 600 AD, however, there is still much investigation to be developed”, said archaeologist Pablo Sereno.

Actually, the knowledge surrounding Piedra Labrada is incipient, its study and exploration is just about to begin in architectonic and sculptural aspects and patterns, this last aspect being really relevant because even the name of the city could have been born out of the cities former inhabitant’s skill with rocks, the investigator pointed out.

This work is very important because it is one of the first studies made in Costa Chica, the majority of pre-Columbian sites are intact; so, with the help of the government authorities and a good relation with the municipality of Ometepec and the city of Piedra Labrada, we can rescue and guarantee the preservation of this pre Hispanic city, concluded Pablo Sereno.

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