May 24th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

Statue of ancient athlete found in Mexico

By CNN Mexico Staff

Read this story in Spanish at CNNMé

A granite statue that could be more than 1,000 years old, carved with the effigy of a Mesoamerican ball player, has been discovered in the Mexican state of Guerrero, the country's National Institute of Anthropology and History said.

The statue was found a few weeks ago when residents of Ometepec, a municipality southwest of Mexico City, were installing pipes to transport water to the archaeological zone of Piedra Labrada, according the institute.

Pablo Sereno Uribe, the archaeologist in charge of the research, explained that the statue "is the representation of a decapitated ball game player. He has his arms crossed over his chest, and the legs are slightly curved. Accessories such as a helmet, a yoke close to his waist and round stones or 'chalchihuites' in the ears were observed.”

The statue, which was found cut in two parts, is 5.41 feet long and has a width of 19.68 inches, and it’s believed to be Mixteca (from the Mixteca Region, in the state of Oaxaca). According to Sereno Uribe, the statue belongs to the Mesoamerican classic period.

Researchers believe the statue was created as part of the landscape and was "decapitated" and buried during a ritual carried out in pre-Hispanic times, according to investigators. Based on the antiquity of the area, with its Mixteca-style sculptures and how the plazas are distributed, perhaps the statue was created in A.D. 600, but more research is needed, Sereno Uribe said.

Sereno Uribe added that a proposal would be presented to the National Institute of Anthropology and History Council of Archaeology to excavate the area in order to find ceramics. That would help the investigators find out more about the origins of the statue, which currently is being protected at a local police station.

Piedra Labrada has an expanse of 2 square kilometers (less than one mile), and since 2011 investigators have been mapping the area to learn about its characteristics, the size of the constructions, how the town squares were divided and which sculptural materials are in the area.

The zone had about 50 buildings of about 9 to 16 feet tall on top of various platforms, five ball fields and more than 20 sculptures of several sizes. The sculptures depict such things as snakes, snails and humans.

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soundoff (54 Responses)
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    June 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
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    June 22, 2013 at 1:50 am |
  3. Abraham

    I heard he was probably gay.

    May 28, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Astrophysicist

      I agree. Most athletes and people that believe in science are gay. Lesbean gay.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
  4. joe

    "The statue is 5.41 feet long and has a width of 19.68 inches"
    Now, this is the kind of very accurate information that we all really need...down to the hundreds of an inch, very impressive.
    Me , I just would have said more than 5 feet tall and about a foot and a half wide.

    May 26, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  5. joe

    Why does everything have to be ritualistic in archeology??? How about the statue was broken accidentaly, so they dumped the pieces...

    May 26, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Kilgore Trout

      Cutting leaves traces on stone that are different from breaking – typically parallel striations and relatively smooth surfaces.

      May 29, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  6. NoWay!

    Is that Dennis Rodman?

    May 26, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  7. Jerry

    It's "pre-Columbian", not "pre-Hispanic".

    May 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • DAT

      That wouldn't be PC enough, I suspect.

      May 25, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Howzatnow

      Out moded speak, what they are referring to is the Hispanic conquest of the Americas.

      May 26, 2013 at 1:41 am |
  8. scoobodybopbop

    One would think if they were trying to portray a ball player in this statue, there would have carved a ball somewhere.

    May 25, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
  9. The fact of the matter

    Decapitated – that's what happened back then when you gave up the winning run.

    May 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Factual fact

      The WINNER of these events were sacrificed to the Gods, stone ruins all over Central America depict the glory of winners, all sacrificed in the name of religion.

      Then, as now, the ignorance called religion caused unnecessary pain, death and suffering. Religion kills.

      May 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  10. Kevin H

    This past summer I had the joy of watching a thousands year old game played by the Woodlands native Americans – re-enacted by a tribal member – directing kids as the athletes at Fort Mackinac State Park in Mackinac, Michigan. If you get the chance I strongly urge you to take the fascinating tour. The ball game was actually fairly brutal and was used to ensure that the warriors could compete on the battlefield and win. The kids did a fairly decent job – and had a lot of fun. It was a memory for them – a life memory. But I wondered – and I do believe I asked the man – whether Mesozoic era peoples might have played similar games. And he responded that there were many similarities for many reasons. The ancient peoples of Mexico and the Woodlands people of Michigan probably had many things in common – with incredible variations in terms of cultural context. But the basic human needs in peace and war during that period would have been similar in nature.

    May 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  11. NOPE

    Look at the lips. Guess they had all the great athletes back then too.

    May 25, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • truth

      you're a racist, go to hell

      May 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  12. Nino Rodriguez

    This goes to show that Pre-Hispanic cultural artifacts will always be found, there is bigger, colorful and more detail pieces to be found.

    May 25, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  13. AceGirlshusband

    Okay, am I the only person not seeing this? I see a statue. But I think its a far reach to call the hair-do a helmet and the crossed-arms a "yoke."

    May 25, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • runymede

      No, you are not the only person not seeing this....LOL....

      May 25, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Jason Shapiro

      Perhaps if you did a small amount of research concerning the Mesoamerican ball game you could avoid making such uninformed comments. There is a huge amount of information available on line that describes both the nature of the game itself as well as the "gear" worn by participants. This is without doubt a statue of a ballplayer.

      May 25, 2013 at 11:38 am |
      • thestrategyexpert

        The problem is the article is garbage. It doesn't explain anything about this "ball game" which is the most fascinating bit of information I wanted to learn about when I clicked this article. This article is just a poor job. Well I'm off to go Google more about this ball game and this culture to get the questions that are now burning in my mind. Thanks for nothing you lousy article.

        May 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
      • Jack Straw

        Would you have looked up anything about this sport or their culture without this article having been posted? It spurred your interest, and know you're taking it upon yourself to learn more about it. That makes it a pretty good article by most definitions.

        May 26, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  14. runymede

    This is proof that Abner Doubleday did not "invent" baseball.

    May 25, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • FYI

      just to clarify, the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican ball game had nothing in common with baseball, except for the extremely superficial similarity that they both used a kind of ball – except the Mesoamerican game used a non-volcanized rubber ball, quite different from a baseball. If you had to compare the ballgame to some modern game, it would be closer to a mix of soccer and basketball with significant ritualistic/religious overtones.

      May 25, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  15. larry crooks

    Damn!! I was hoping the Cubs would sign him!

    May 25, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • JJ

      The player was decapitated because he lost. The Cubs in fact did sign him.

      May 25, 2013 at 8:08 am |
      • Alex

        No the player was decapitated because he won and therefore a fitting sacrifice. Imagine your favorite player striving to do his best so he can be sacrificed. May be that is why they thank god when they hit a homer or strike out the last batter in the bottom of the 9th.

        May 25, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • Andacar

        No, but he did become eligible to run for congress.

        May 25, 2013 at 11:49 am |
      • gw

        No, the Cubs would have signed him to a six year contract after he lost...

        May 29, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  16. darinramsay

    I heard the Yankees signed this broken down,, ,old ball player, and for some reason he's hitting .346 this year, with 7 HR, and 24 RBI. Dang pinstripes.

    May 25, 2013 at 7:17 am |
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    May 25, 2013 at 2:56 am |
  18. Robert Miller

    Cool story, 1000 years ago huh? Why is this impressive again? we've had statues and figurines of Mesoamerican ball players dating back past 1000BCE for a long time now. This is nothing new or even news worthy.

    May 25, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • Michael J.

      Shut up, Robert, you pathetic piece of crap.

      May 25, 2013 at 4:43 am |
      • Robert Miller

        oh I see you're on of those "internet tough guys" that goes around calling people names. First rule of an argument is once you start calling names you lose because it shows you have nothing more productive to bring to the conversation. So bye.

        May 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Jack Straw

      Ok, no name calling, Robert. Agreed. But why do you get to decide what is newsworthy or interesting and what is not? I think the story is interesting. I'll bet that other people do as well. That you don't is your business, and if you care so little, why bother to comment at all?

      May 26, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • gw

      Well, the only artifacts fating past 1000 BCE are Olmec and almost nothing is known about them. The Mixtec were at their height from the 11th to the 16th century...about the time this is dated to...fascinating enough...

      May 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  19. OldyMoldyWatery

    I see worshipping athletes is a tradition spanning thousands of years. lol.

    If they knew better,they would of printed t-shirts with this guy's face on it,or sell copies of that statue to the fans

    May 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • edwardst35

      Statue looks like Obama!

      May 24, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
      • edwardst35

        BIG LIPS!

        May 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
      • Stevel

        As opposed to your tiny brain

        May 25, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Michael J.

      They would HAVE, not "would of", moron.

      May 25, 2013 at 4:43 am |
      • Spunky

        Michael J., It's pointless, the likes of Oldy and Ed don't understand what you're saying.

        May 25, 2013 at 8:36 am |
      • Alex

        you're just an angry little man aren't you?

        May 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  20. LSC0210

    Lucifer, It's called Tlactli. very violent and I don't recall if it was the winners or losers, but someone was sacrificed to the Gods.

    May 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  21. Sasquatch

    Looks just like Scottie Pippen!

    May 24, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  22. iconoclast

    The "ball game" they refer to was the game played by many mesoamerican cultures in ball courts such as those found in Mayan, Mixtec, and Aztec ruins, I've been to a few myself. It involved a rubber ball they propelled with their hips, and made goals through rings on the sides of the court. Sort of a cross between soccer and basketball.

    May 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  23. Edaf

    How do square kilometers and miles equate? One is an area and one is a distance. Two square kilometers is about 3/4 of a square mile, so maybe that is what they meant. But is that "an expanse"? Rookie mistake.

    May 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • cjccja

      These articles are poorly edited. Actually I doubt anyone seriously looks them over. If you want edited copy you'd have to pay more than nothing to subscribe to it.

      So, I suspect the author simply left out the word "square" before miles.

      May 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
  24. Just Call Me Lucifer

    I wonder what sort of ball playing they're referring to.... even as a demi-god I'm stumped.

    May 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Michael J.

      You're a moron.

      May 25, 2013 at 4:44 am |
    • Howzatnow

      The Meso-American Ball Game was a complex sport/ritual(possibly involving consumption of DMT by players and spectators, as there was a lot of toad iconography attached to the sport). The game part was played with the hips only,on a multi-tiered T shaped stone paved court and the stone hoop was twenty ft up the side on either end. Loser dies.

      May 26, 2013 at 1:55 am |
      • 419cyclist

        so basically it was the most awesome sport in the history of mankind?

        May 26, 2013 at 5:17 am |
      • Factual fact

        No, look it up. The WINNERS had the honor of being sacrificed to the Gods in a ritual designed to maximize the blood spatter, which the ignorant priests thought would make the land more fertile. Once again, religion kills.

        May 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm |


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