The Rubber Ball Games of the Americas

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Author: Stern, Theodore (1917-2005)

Year: 1948

Publisher: J J Augustin

Place: New York


vii+121 pages with frontispiece, 7 maps and bibliography. Royal octavo (9 1/2" x 6 1/4") bound in original publisher's green cloth with gilt lettering to spine. Monographs of the American Ethnological Society volume XVII. First edition.

The Precolumbian ballgame was a sport with ritual associations played for over 3000 years by the peoples of America. The sport had different versions in different places during the millennia, and a modern version of the game, ulama, is still played in a few places by the local indigenous population.Pre-Columbian ballcourts have been found throughout Mesoamerica, as far south as Nicaragua, and possibly as far north as the U.S. state of Arizona. These ballcourts vary considerably in size, but all have long narrow alleys with side-walls against which the balls could bounce.The rules of the ballgame are not known, but judging from its descendant, ulama, they were probably similar to racquetball or volleyball, where the aim is to keep the ball in play. The iconic stone ballcourt goals are a late addition to the game. In the most widespread version of the game, the players struck the ball with their hips, although some versions allowed the use of forearms, rackets, bats, or handstones. The ball was made of solid rubber and weighed up to 4 kg (9 lbs) or more, and sizes differed greatly over time or according to the version played.The game had important ritual aspects, and major formal ballgames were held as ritual events, often featuring human sacrifice. The sport was also played casually for recreation by children and perhaps even women.


Points rubbed and bumped, spine sunned and gilt dulled. A very good copy issued without jacket.

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