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Ballcourt Interpretative Panel

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This depiction of a ball game is based on descriptions of games played by the Mayan and Aztec cultures of Mexico and speculations on the Hohokam games in southern Arizona.

Ballcourts were common in southern Arizona from A.D. 750 to 1200, but relatively rare here in the northern part of the state. This suggests that the people of Wupatki intermingled within their southern Arizona neighbors – the Hohokam – who may have borrowed and modified the ballcourt idea from earlier contact with the Indian cultures of Mexico.

Located along major natural drainages and travel routes, ballcourts may have provided opportunities for social exchange between villages. They were often within a one-day walk of a neighboring village.

There is continued speculation about the uses of the ballcourts. Because of the work involved in building a ballcourt and the numbers that have been found (over 200 in Arizona), ball games may have been an important part of life for the people of Wupatki and their southern neighbors.

The Hohokam balls – found at archaeological sites containing ballcourts – were made of carefully shaped rock and perhaps covered with pin pitch or other material. One form of the game might have involved moving the ball toward a goal using a curved stick.

The Wupatki ballcourt is 78 feet wide, 102 feet long, and had a 6-foot-high wall. Excavated and stabilized in 1965, a large part of the interior wall has been reconstructed.

National Park Service
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