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Yucatan Mayas Took Their Basketball Seriously 1000 Years Ago--Goals So Rare, Scorer Was Allowed to Loot Spectators


Basketball was originally a religious sport and had its beginnings a thousand years ago in the limestone pits and courts of Yucatan, according to Dr. S. G. Morley '07, who for three years has been directing excavations at Chichea Itza, a city of the ancient Maya Indians in northeast Yucatan under the auspices of the Carnegie Institute of Washington.

"In a ceremonial worship of some unknown god, the Mayas played a game which might be the ancestor of our modern game of basketball" declared Dr. Morley in a recent interview with a CRIMSON reporter. "We have found the great stone courts in which this game was played. The floor measured 100 yards long and 30 yards wide. The court was not enclosed at the ends, but the side-walls were parallel, and rose to a height of 25 feet. At the center of each of these side-walls, near the top, projected a stone ring some 14 inches in 11-ameter, fixed perpendicular rather than horizontally, as is the case with the modern basketball hoop. This arrangement made it necessary for the ball to be put cleanly through the ring from a point close to the wall, and eliminated any possibility of a rebound from the wall.

"One might imagine, from this position of the ring, that few goals were scored. But the ball was never thrown. To be sent through the ring the ball had to be struck with the elbow or wrist, or bounced from the hip.

"Quite naturally, under these conditions, a goal was an event, and so rarely was one made that to the successful player was awarded all the weapons, jewelry, and clothing of the spectators.

"We have no idea of the number of players in this game, but judging from the size of the court, it must have been considerable. A solemn sacrifice preceded each game, which had in itself some religious significance which is unknown. The puttime of the ball through the ring was regarded as a high honor to the god.

"The manufacture of the ball used in the game is the first known instance of rubber being used as a resilient substance. Rubber pads were also bound upon the wrists, elbows, and hips of the players, to aid in the bouncing of the ball from these places."

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