Ballplayer Artist: Unknown

A.D. 600–900

Art of the Ancient Americas

On view, 1st floor, Art of the Ancient Americas

This small clay figurine represents a Maya ballplayer. He wears a loincloth over his midsection and a U-shaped yoke (protective belt) around his waist. The yoke is open at one side, with a large, bird-shaped hacha (belt ornament) projecting from the front. A bulky stuffed turban cushions his head from blows inflicted by the heavy rubber ball as well as by his opponent. Despite the physical activity in which he is either currently or soon to be engaged, he wears several pieces of heavy jewelry—ear spools, bracelets, and a double-strand necklace. The skulls incorporated into the design of necklace allude to the sometimes deadly nature of the Mesoamerican ballgame, which, in addition to being an athletic event, was an important religious activity.


Ceramic with pigment


18.7 × 9.5 × 9 cm (7 3/8 × 3 3/4 × 3 9/16 in.)

Credit Line

Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903, Fund

Accession Number



Late Classic Period


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Alfred Stendahl (1915–2010), Los Angeles, June 27, 1956; Fred H. Olsen (1891–1986), and Florence Quittenton Olsen, Guilford, Conn.; gift in 1973 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • George A. Kubler, ed., Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1986), 134, 292, no. 297, fig. 147.
  • "Acquisitions, 1973," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 35, no. 1 (Summer 1974): 76, ill.
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

human figures (visual works), sculpture

Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

View IIIF manifest

The International Image Interoperability Framework, or IIIF, is an open standard for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. Visit to learn more

Linked Art

API response for this object

Linked Art is a Community working together to create a shared Model based on Linked Open Data to describe Art.