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Art of the Ancient Americas
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Unknown


A.D. 600–900

Ceramic with pigment

18.7 × 9.5 × 9 cm (7 3/8 × 3 3/4 × 3 9/16 in.)
Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903, Fund
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.
On view
Mexico, probably Campeche, Jaina Island, Maya
Late Classic Period

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.


“Acquisitions, 1973,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 35, no. 1 (Summer 1974): 76, ill.

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.

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 such records is ongoing.