Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • How many figures can you count on this object? What are they doing? What are they wearing?

  • Try to mimic the pose of one of the figures. How does it feel? Have you ever been in this position before? When?

  • Describe the scene on the vessel. Four men are involved in a ballgame. Can you imagine what is about to happen?

  • The Maya played a game with a solid rubber ball. The ball was usually about the size of a modern soccer ball and weighed about eight pounds. Maya players were not allowed to use their hands to keep the ball in motion—only their hips, thighs, or upper arms. How does the Maya ballgame look different from soccer?

  • The ancient Maya ballgame could have many levels of meaning. It was played as a popular sport and as a ritual performance. As ritual, it reenacted the mythical game played by the Hero Twins against the Lords of Death in the Underworld. The contest was one of good against evil, of life against death. Because the text on this vessel names two rulers and two kingdoms, this scene may show an inter-kingdom contest (Miller and Martin 2004: 91).

  • How would this vessel have been used? The band of glyphs at the rim include a glyph for cacao, which we know as chocolate—an important food that originated in the Americas that the Maya would make into a drink. Do you think this was a vessel for daily use or for special occasions? Why?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Consider the similarities and differences between the Maya ballgame and sports we play today. Make a list of everything the players are wearing. Describe their gear. Choose another sport (soccer, basketball, baseball, etc.). Create a list of everything you wear when you are playing this sport. Compare the two lists.

  • This vessel shows four men playing a popular Maya ballgame that is similar to soccer. Write a story about this particular game. Who played on each team? Who won? Did the victors win a prize? Who watched the game?

  • Read about the relief of the procession from the tomb of Ny-Ank-Nesut (1965.28.M). Compare and contrast the relief with this Maya vessel. What is stylistically similar or different? How are the narratives similar or different? How are the functions of each work of art similar or different?

  • Present-day athletes sometimes have a collectible card designed with their picture on one side and information about them on the backside. (Perhaps you or your friends collect them!) Design a Maya ballgame card for one of the figures on this vessel. Then, design your own card. What information would you want to present? What moments in your life would you like highlighted on your card?

  • Look closely at the rollout image of this vessel. On a long, horizontal piece of paper, design and draw a scene from your favorite moment in a game or sporting event.

  • This vessel has two functions: drinking or serving cup and a surface for telling a story. Using art supplies of your choice, create something that has a dual purpose. Write a paragraph describing your artwork’s duality.

  • The Maya developed a complex written language using images called glyphs. Try to communicate with your classmates without using letters. Sketch a scene from a movie or book without writing anything. Can your classmates guess the correct movie or book?