Work of Art: Ceremonial Ball Game Yoke
Veracruz state
Ceremonial Ball Game Yoke
circa 250-900
H. 4 1/2 x W. 14 1/4 x L. 16 in. (11.4 x 36.2 x 40.7 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Ann G. Nisenson

Ancient players of the Mesoamerican ballgame wore a wide, padded, belt-like yoke of wood, rubber or leather to prevent injury from the heavy rubber ball. (Compare the ballcourt marker, also in the Museum's collection, which depicts a Maya ballplayer wearing a yoke.) The game is still played among indigenous peoples in Mexico, the object being to keep the ball in the air by striking it with any part of the body except the hands. Heavy stone yokes (this one weighs 45 pounds) were ceremonial items, sometimes even found in burials that bestowed status on their owners. This yoke is carved in the shape of a stylized frog. Large eyes and a broad mouth (with a tongue sticking out) cover the front with the front legs tucked just behind. At the back end are the frog's crouching hind legs.

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