The Mesoamerican ballgame is a subject that has received a great deal of attention from scholars. This attention has largely focused on the political and societal implications of the game for Classic and Postclassic period Mesoamerican cultures. Discussions of the antiquity of the ballgame often focus simply on the oldest known Preclassic examples of ballcourt architecture, and assume that these earliest courts played a similar role to their later counterparts. Recent discoveries of more than 20 examples of Middle Preclassic ballcourts at Maya sites in northwest Yucatan provide a new source of data on the early Mesoamerican ballgame and a new perspective on its societal role.
It was a game of much recreation to them and enjoyment specially for those who took it as pastime and entertainment… They were so clever both those of one side and those of the other in not allowing the ball to stop that it was marvelous—for if to see those of our country (Spain) play ball with their hands gives us such pleasure and surprise, then seeing skill and speed with which some of them play, how much more must we praise those who with such skill and dexterity and elegance play it with buttocks and with knees (Duran, quoted by Blom 1932:491-492).
The ballgame described by the Spanish chronicler Diego Duran is one of the most widely known cultural traits of ancient Mesoamerica, and it has been the subject of numerous studies, commentaries, conferences, and dissertations (e.g., Blom 1932; Fox 1994, 1996; Hill and Clark 2001; Leyenaar 1978; Medina Castillo 2005; Oliveros 1988; Scarborough and Wilcox 1991; Taladoire 1981, 2003; Uriarte 1992; van Bussel et al.