The Maya Ballgame
The Beginning and End of Time
by Photos by David Bjorkman • Text by Victoria Thomas
The Maya Ballgame was swift and dangerous. It was a contest of athletic skill and ritual spectacle where ballplayers reenacted the eternal struggle between light and dark, order and chaos.
Each ancient Maya city had at least one ballcourt and one pyramid in its ceremonial center. The Maya played the Ballgame with unique balls made of rubber. As the ballplayers maneuvered the ball across the ballcourt, they struggled in an earthly ritual that mirrored the cosmological battle between day and night. With the ball being the Sun, the ballplayers the planets, and the stone ballcourt ring the portal to the Underworld, the game was a contest between death and rebirth.
The Ballgame ceased to be played in the 1500s, outlawed by the conquering Spaniards, who saw the bouncy rubber ball as an instrument of the devil. But now the Maya Ballcourts and pyramids are being rebuilt at a pace not seen in a thousand years. The Maya calendar, which twines the cycles of the Sun, moon and planets, is the most sophisticated ever devised by a civilization. According to the calendar, this current 5,126 year-long-cycle of Time that we live in began on August 13, 3114 BCE when the Hero Twins, Hunaphu and Xbanke, defeated the Lords of Death in an Underworld Ballgame. It will end on December 21, 2012. Now with this Maya cycle of Time rolling towards its end, the Ballgame is once again being resurrected.
Photographer David Bjorkman and writer Victoria Thomas have documented the only school in existence teaching young Maya boys the Maya Ballgame. Also included are photographs of 12 of Mexico's most impressive Maya pyramids, which symbolize the Upperworld. This book contains 37 of the 38 original photographs of the Maya Ballgame Museum Exhibit.
David Bjorkman has worked as a photojournalist and war photographer, magazine art director and book publisher. His photos have been published in more than 20 countries. As a photographer, he has been smuggled across borders at night and survived a chopper being shot out from under him. He has slept on the floor of a Lakota Sioux holy man's house for months while completing a book project. He has been a member of the Explorer's Club and photographed, while on an Explorer's Club expedition into the Darien jungle of Panama, the Choco Indian chief who taught jungle survival to the original U.S. Apollo astronauts. An avid Mayanist who has published six books on the topic, he has led tours to the Maya Yucatan region of Mexico, and scoured jungles for hidden pyramids. He holds an MFA degree from the University of Colorado, and has been a fine arts instructor and an artist whose work is held in private collections in the U.S and Europe, and has been exhibited in both galleries and museums.
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