Yoke for Ritual Ballgame

Veracruz culture, Pre-Columbian

670 - 730

Ball players in Mesoamerica wore objects like this yoke for protection. The game they played over 3500 years ago was not just a competitive sport but also a life-and-death ritual connecting the living community to the heavens and underworld. The game’s symbolism evoked the sun’s movement across the sky during the day, and its path through the underworld at night. Actual yokes, made of cloth, leather, or wood, protected a player’s abdomen from dense, heavy rubber balls.