CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: Large, heavy U-shaped stone believed to be a ritual copy of a wooden protector worn by players of the Mesoamerican ball game during the Classic period. It was worn on the hips and decorated with carved designs with double-edge scrolls. The term is also used for the wooden crosspiece fastened over the necks of a pair of oxen or horses and attached to the plow, cart, or wagon to be drawn.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: ballgame, ball game; ollama, pok-ta-pok CATEGORY: term DEFINITION: The ritual and sporting activity played throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, especially in Mexico and Guatemala from the Pre-Classic period. (Stone reliefs at Dainzu and the possible remains of a ball court at San Lorenzo Tenochititlan indicate that the game existed as early as Pre-Classic times.) It may have originated among the Olmecs (La Venta culture, c 800-400 BC) or even earlier and it spread to other cultures, including Monte Albán and El Tajín; the Maya (called pok-ta-pok); and the Toltec, Mixtec, and Aztec. In Aztec times, it was a nobles' game and was often accompanied by heavy betting. Various myths mention the ball game, sometimes as a contest between day and night deities. It is still played in isolated regions. The players, who were sometimes heavily padded, were allowed to use only their hips and thighs in propelling a rubber ball around the court. The ball-court itself was shaped like a capital I with exaggerated end pieces, and in the Post-Classic periodstone rings or macaw heads were fixed to the side walls. Aztec records say that the team which passed the ball through one of these rings won the game outright. Tlachtli is the name of the court itself, but also for the game. Tlachtli and ollama are Nahuatl words. There was considerable diversity in the rules both over time and across culture. Death through injury was not unusual and the loss of a game could sometimes result in the sacrifice of the losing team. There is a considerable inventory of artifacts associated with the ball game, including hachas, palmas, court markers, elbow stones, and yokes.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: palma CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: A large spatulatestone object about 2 ft (61 cm) long, shaped like a hand with extended fingers, believed to be a ceremonial representation of a device worn by ballgame players in Mesoamerica and dating to the Classic Period. It rested on a yoke which fitted around the waist and projected upward to protect the chest. Probably of wood or leather with carving on both sides, they may have been trophies, religious symbols, or for burial purposes. The center for these puzzling stone carvings seems to be the coastal Veracruz area.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: plough CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: A tool designed to be drawn through the ground to break it up for cultivation, often powered by a yoke (or more) of oxen, other animals, or men. The earliest type of plow, developed from the hoe and digging stick, is the ard or scratch plow, which stirs the soil without turning it. Cross-plowing, the result of a second plowing at right angles to the first, is usually necessary. This type was of Near Eastern origin c 4th millennium BC. The later plow, heavier and wheeled, did not appear until the early centuries AD. It is more suited to the heavier soils of Europe. Prehistoric America, lacking suitable draft animals, did not have a plow. The 18th-century addition of the moldboard, which turned the furrow slice cut by the plowshare, was an important advance. The plow is considered the most important agricultural implement of history, used to turn and break up soil, to bury crop residues, and to help control weeds.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: plough beam CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: The wooden or metal bar that connects the blades, shares, and their mountings to the yoke, which in turn is attached to the harnesses fitted to the draught animals that provide the power. The plough beam has to be strong enough to transmit the power from the traction through to the blades and share cutting through the ground, but long enough for the draught animals not to be snagged by the plowing mechanism itself.
CATEGORY: artifact DEFINITION: A carved stone, presumably a replication of a wooden yokesection, used in the ceremonial ball games