Archaeologists have discovered a 3400-years-old ballgame court in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico after they started excavation in 2015. Jeffrey Blomster and Víctor Salazar Chávez began the excavation at a site that appeared an important public place but they unearthed a flat stone floor extending to at least 46 metres with low steps made of clay and stone.
According to the research published in Science Advances, the archaeologists have finally established the mysterious structure as a court of famous rubber ballgame, one of the most fundamental features Mesoamerica. The radiocarbon evidence of the ballgame court showed that the court was constructed between 1443 and 1305 BCE, a time of emergent sociopolitical complexity and increased interregional interaction throughout Mesoamerica.
Blomster and Chávez, authors of the study, said that the origins and evolution remain poorly understood even after the game being one of the most enduring and iconic features of ancient Mesoamerican civilisation. The duo said that one early ballcourt dates back to 1650 BCE from the Chiapas lowland and other ballcourts have remained undocumented until a millennium later.
However, the new data from the southern highlands of Mexico necessitate revising previous paradigms with the earliest highland Mesoamerican ballcourt dating to 1374 BCE. The archaeologists said that Early Formative highland villagers played an important role in the origins of the formal Mesoamerican ballgame, which later evolved into a crucial component of subsequent states.
“Despite the ballgame’s centrality to the many societies that thrived in this region for over 3000 years, its evolution during the Early Formative, the time when most features of Mesoamerica civilization coalesced, remains obscure,” wrote the authors.
The researchers concluded that the Etlatongo ballcourts are the earliest known from highland Mesoamerica with the first being 800 years older than are those from the central Mexican highlands and over 1000 years earlier than any other ballcourt in Oaxaca. They said the construction of an architectural ballcourt represents both more formalized rules for the game and more complex social and regional interactions.