Great Ballcourt


rchaeologists have identified several courts for playing the Mesoamerican ball game in Chichén, but the Great Ball Court about 150 meters to the north-west of the Castillo is by far the most impressive. It is the largest ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. It measures 166 by 68 meters. The imposing walls are 8 meters high, and in the center, high up on each of the long walls, are rings carved with intertwining serpents.

At the base of the high interior walls are slanted benches with sculpted panels depicting teams of ball players. In one panel, one of the players has been decapitated, and from the wound seven streams of blood are emitted; six of which are transformed into wriggling serpents while the central stream becomes a winding plant.

Built into the east wall are the Temples of the Jaguar. The Upper Temple of the Jaguar overlooks the ball court and has an entrance guarded by two, large columns carved in the familiar feathered serpent motif. The two opened serpent mouths rest on the ground, whereas the cylindrical bodies support the lintel. The inner room consists of two chambers, decorated by large mural paintings, which mainly depict very detailed battle scenes. In the middle of the first room stands a rectangular altar, whose table is supported by 15 human figures, the so-called "Atlantean Figures".

In the entrance to the Lower Temple of the Jaguar, which opens behind the ball court, is another jaguar throne, similar to the one in the inner temple of El Castillo, except that it is well worn and missing paint or other decoration. The outer columns and the walls inside the temple are covered with elaborate bas-relief carvings.

At one end of the Great Ball Court is the North Temple, popularly called the Temple of the Bearded Man. This small masonry building has detailed bas relief carving on the inner walls, including a central figure that has carving under his chin resembling facial hair. At the other end, the South Temple, a colonnaded building merges with the south boundary wall of the playing field. The single interior room was once vaulted, and six square columns and seven doorways formed its northern wall. A Chak Mol figure apparently sat in the center of the building looking out onto the ball court. The back wall was decorated by several mural paintings, depicting war scenes.

Another architectural speciality within the walls of the playing area is the amplification of the acoustic. A whisper from one end can be heard clearly at the other end 500 feet away and through the length and breath of the court. The sound waves are unaffected by wind direction or time of day/night. Archaeologists engaged in the reconstruction noted that the sound transmission became stronger and clearer as they proceeded.

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Lower Jaguar Temple South Temple
Lower Jaguar Temple South Temple