"Numeral Classifiers as Indicators of Game Variants of Meso-American Ball Games"
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Ingrid Kummels (FU Berlin), Prof. Dr. Bernd Hausberger (El Colegio de México), Prof. Dr. Viola König (FU Berlin)
The Meso-American ball game, which has been played from Mexico to Honduras since pre-classical times to the present, forms a central pillar of pre-Columbian culture. The more than 1,500 ball courts that have been archeologically documented corroborate the importance of this cultural element in that period. In my dissertation, an epigraphic examination, mainly in the Maya region, of so-called numeral classifiers in connection with archaeological data, iconographic comparisons and supplementary ethnological studies aims at furnishing a better understanding of the significance of this sign. Considerable differences in the size of the ball courts, their layout, the shape of their lateral boundaries and the descriptions in Spanish sources of the sixteenth century suggest several variants of the game. Do these numeral classifiers indicate something about these variants? The object of my investigations is to discover the significance of numeral classifiers, particularly the naab sign, in these games.
The premise of my dissertation is that the naab mark should be regarded as a unit of length. This interpretation of numerical coefficients upon which the nab sign is based will be compared to other interpretations.
From the previously mentioned premise, I derive two major research hypotheses. First, if the naab sign is a unit of length, this indicates something about the size of the ball. Second, balls of different sizes result in different variants of the game. How are these respective differences reflected in the archaeological findings? The final stage of my research will be to create a spatial and temporal map based on the collected data, showing the development of the numerous variants of the game.