El Castillo 1/1 by Tripoto
Kin Enriquez
El Castillo is not the only large-scale structure in the city though. To the west of El Castillo is the Great Ballcourt, which at 550 feet long, is the largest in Mesoamerica. It is where the game called ōllamaliztli was played in ancient times. Ōllamaliztli is similar to the modern-day raquetball. Players would hit the heavy ball made of solid rubber using their hips and try to shoot them through stone rings installed along the walls running along the court. The games were only witnessed by the powers-that-be of the Mayan society, and the ordinary people are not allowed to watch them (although people play them outside in their homes). The players were handpicked from the best of the best, and the prize for winning the game is to be ritually sacrificed in the temple. Losing the game would mean humiliation as losing players were considered unfit for the gods, while winning one would mean eternal glory, although at the expense of having one's heart cut out after being decapitated. At the end of the ball court is the Temple of the Bearded Man. The building, decorated with bas-relief, probably is where the nobility and the priests watch the games. Two more temples - the Temples of the Jaguars - were built on top of the walls flanking the court. One overlooks the court, while the other faces the main plaza. These temples were decorated with bas-relief too, with the serpent the predominant motif.