The ball game has played a central role in Mayan religion and culture for 5000 years. Thousands of ball courts have been discovered. The Great Ball Court (GBC) at Chichen Itza is a late development and is architecturally unique. Two remarkable acoustical features were noticed during excavation in the 1920s, but never explained or interpreted. A whispering gallery permits voice communication between temples located about 460 feet (140 m) apart. A profound flutter echo is heard between the two massive parallel walls of the playing field, about 270 ft (82 m) long, 28 ft (8.5 m) high, and 119 ft (36 m) apart. Until recently, most archaeologists dismissed acoustical features at Mayan sites as unintended artifacts. That is now changing. Stimulated by archaeological acoustic studies and reports since 1999, eminent Mayanists Stephen Houston and Karl Taube have reinterpreted certain Mayan glyphs as vibrant sounds and ballcourt echoes, and have famously called for a new archaeology of the senses, especially hearing, sight, and smell [Cambridge Archaeol. J. 10 (2) 261–294 (2000)]. By interpreting architectural, psychoacoustic, and cognitive features of the GBC in the context of ancient Mayan culture, this paper speculates that acoustical effects at the GBC may be original design features.
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David Lubman; Acoustics of the Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza, Mexico. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 November 2006; 120 (5_Supplement): 3279. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4777330
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