Saturday, January 26, 2013

GAME BOARDS IN ROCK ART - PATOLLI:

Any student of rock art would happily classify a design marked on a slab of rock that they discovered somewhere out in the wilderness as rock art. Most of us would even classify markings that we know had been created by a culture for utilitarian purpose as rock art. Examples of that include tool grooves and bedrock metates. But how would we classify markings on a piece of rock that was considered to be a household item for frequent use? In this posting we look at another game board carved in rock, this example reported from Hopi.


Aztec game of patolli. In Games People Play, Barbara Voorhies,
p. 51, Archaeology magazine, May-June 2012

In the article Games Ancient People Played, by Barbara Voorhies, in Archaeology Magazine, May/June 2012, p. 48-51, one illustration shows an Aztec game being played on a very distinctive game board. This gambling game, known as Patolli, shows the gamblers and the Aztec god Macuilxochitl, the god of games, to whom they pray for luck. His name can be translated as “Five Flowers” shown in the illustration by the flower in his hand as five circles at the top center.
 
Four-player tolosi game board, Fig. 195, p. 162, Stewart Culin, 1907,
Games Of The North American Indians, Twenty-fourth Annual
Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1902-1903,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

The other illustration is from Games Of The North American Indians, Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1902-1903, Smithsonian Institution, 1907, by Stewart Culin. It illustrates a Hopi game board CARVED IN SANDSTONE which is essentially identical to the patolli board of the Aztecs, that Culin identified as having been used in a Hopi game called tolosi.  It is a board for four players as is the Aztec example. This game is played by throwing cane dice to control the player’s moves. This is very likely done much like the Aztec example described below.
Two-player tolosi game board, Fig. 194, p. 162, Stewart Culin, 1907,
Games Of The North American Indians, Twenty-fourth Annual
Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1902-1903,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

According to Wikipedia “Patolli is a race/war game with a heavy focus on gambling. Players would meet and inspect the items each other had available to gamble. They bet blankets, Maguey plants, precious stones, gold adornments, food or just about anything. In extreme cases, they would bet their homes and sometimes their family and freedom. Agreeing to play against someone was not done casually as the winner of the game would ultimately win all of the opponent's store of offerings. Each player must have the same number of items to bet at the beginning of the game. The ideal number of items to bet is six, although any number would be acceptable as long as each player agreed. The reason for having at least six bits of treasure is because there are six jade markers that will traverse the game board. As each marker successfully completes the circuit around the board, the opponent is required to hand over ownership of an item from his or her treasure. Once an agreement is made to play, the players prepare themselves by invoking the god of games, Macuilxochitl (as in the Aztec illustration), by offering incense, prayers and food. After psyching themselves up - the game begins.”
An interesting example of utilitarian rock art (made for use), as well as evidence of yet another link of the American Southwest to the civilizations of Central America.

REFERENCES:

Culin, Stewart
1907    Games Of The N.orth American Indians, Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1902-1903, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Voorhies, Barbara
2012    GAMES PEOPLE PLAY, Archaeology Magazine, May/June 2012, pages 48 – 51.

Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. FYI the Hopi game is called totolospi, not tolosi.

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