New evidence supports the theory offered by the excavation leader at the Tonina site in Mexico: Mayans made balls out of the ashes of high ranking officials to play with, so they could live on after death.
New archaeological evidence found in a Mayan crypt in southeastern Mexico suggests that the Mayans may have had odd habits when it came to honouring their ancestors. According to an article in Jerusalem Post, they “may have turned important people into balls for sport after they died.”
Yes, you read that right. The Mayans allegedly mixed human ashes with rubber and roots, and formed balls out of the remains of their dead.
A Mayan crypt in the ruins of the ancient city of Tonina, possibly built during the 7th or 8th century CE, and discovered in 2020, was located in the pyramids. Inside the chamber, archaeologists found 400 vessels with human ash, mixed in with rubber and roots in them. This may have been a stage of making balls out of the dead.
Tonina, according to encyclopedia.com, is “a large center of the Maya classic period (roughly 200–850 CE), located in the Ocosingo Valley in Mexico surrounded by the peaks of the Chiapas highlands.”
Archaeologist Juan Yadeun had previously offered a theory that the Mayans had this ritual with the elite dead, and now the newly surfaced remains may prove him right. The findings support his hypothesis that important figures' remains were incorporated into balls used in sport - "a transformation of the body" that allowed them to live on after their death.
"Such discoveries in Tonina provide a more accurate idea of how interesting and complex the Mayan religion was," said Yadeun, the director of the excavations at Tonina, working on behalf of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
“Just as Egyptians tried to preserve bodies, we know where they were transformed in another way – for example, in death bundles,” he added. “We also have evidence they were incorporated into balls. During the Classic Period the balls were gigantic. The evidence shows they were big.”
“In the ball game court we have evidence that indicates these lords 'came back to life' 260 days later. They came out of the death cave.”