Ancient God Macuilxochitl overseeing people playing Patolli
Photo by Berkeley, University of California, 1903
Board Game Patolli
Photo by Aztec work
2ND CENTURY BCE
OTHER NAMES: Patole (in Spanish)
Patolli is one of the original and oldest board game on American continent, it is a game that is heavily influenced by religion at the time. The game is commonly disputed by the uncanny first glance resemblance to Pachisi, however today historians have accepted that both games are fundamentally different in terms of origin and game play.
According to Anthropologist Barry Lewis, the ancient Teotihuacan's, Toltecs, Aztecs, Mayan, and many Mesoamerican civilizations have played Patolli, and has strong elements of war and gambling due to the relation to the ancient deity Macuilxochitl. (1) Patolli has been labeled as a race game by the earlier board game historians. Some claim that it could just as well have been a war game. The earliest Spanish sources referred to both war and race games when they tried to describe Patolli and compared it with native Spanish games. (2)
Unfortunately many information of the game has been lost in history, however there are some modern reproduction of the game with variation of rules. Never the less the game still can be found online made by the Kirk Company in 1980.
The origin of games is one of the oldest human civilization lineage, spanning over millenniums of development to date. From archaeological evidence traditional games is one of the fundamental aspect of life in the ancient world, and is paramount to the development of social culture and military strategies. Many of these games became modern day family fun for holidays and occasions to enjoy.