Daily Life of the Aztecs by Jacques Soustelle

They delighted in hunting. Common people may have hunted for food or to sell game but nobles hunted for pleasure. They went after birds with blow-pipes. A pipe would shoot a baked-clay balls.

They also had organized hunts, in which they arranged themselves in a long line and drove the deer, coyotes, rabbits and hares forward before killing them. Those who killed a deer or a coyote were given a present by the emperor, who also provided food and drink for everyone.

The Mexicans were passionately addicted to gambling. Some Indians lost all their belongings and even their freedom, for they would sell themselves as slaves. They gambled on tlachtli and patolli.

Tlachtli, the ball game, was an ancient game played by other peoples from the area. The court is shaped as a double T. Two sides faced one another, one on each side of a central line. They tried to cause a heavy rubber ball to pass into the other part of the court.

On the side walls were two carved stone rings, and if one of the sides managed to throw the ball through either of them, that side won the game. It was difficult to do. The players were not allowed to touch the ball with either their hands or their feet, but only with their knees and hips. The players threw themselves to the ground to get at the ball.

They wore knee-caps and leather aprons and chin-pieces and half-masks covering their cheeks. They also wore leather gloves. Some players, hit in the belly, died, and after the game many were injured.

The game was played with great enthusiasm. Only the ruling class was allowed to play.

Tlachtli had mythological and religious significance: the court represented the world and the ball the sun or the moon. The sky was a sacred tlachtli in which divine beings played with the stars as their ball. The courts were located in the temple neighborhood. Some still exist.

In reality the game was an excuse for huge bets in which great quantities of clothes, feathers, gold and slaves changed hands.

Patolli was a game with dice. A codex shows four players sitting on the ground or on mats round a table shaped like a cross and divided into squares.

For dice the players used beans marked with different numbers. At each throw they moved small colored stones from square to square on the board. The winner was the one who returned to the beginning.

It also had a hidden meaning. There were 52 squares on the board. That is the same number of years that make a complete cycle in their calendar.

It was played in all classes and frequently had passionate gambling.