Pachisi and Patolli is Convergent Evolution
If you’re multicultural like me then you’ll come to realize there are a lot of similarities in different cultures. As humans, we share a lot in common and many things, including math and love, are universal. Convergent evolution is when two cultures can solve problems and adapt to their environment using similar but different solutions.
The Indian game of Pachisi and the Mesoamerican game of Patolli are two completely different games even though both share various similarities. I believe Patolli is the result of convergent evolution because of its conceptual design, religious significance, and vast distances between cultures.
Even though both Parchisi and Patolli are competitive racing games, and use tokens, both were created on completely separate continents. Every culture shares similarities but none are the same, each is unique. Both cultures built monolithic temples to praise their gods, both societies learned to toil the land, fabricate the clothes worn, and cultivate food to be eaten without having to share knowledge or come in contact with each other. This also means that even the games played would be created by their communities and evolve through time.
It is completely possible that the Mesoamerican game Patolli was created without the influence of any external factors. The importance of Patolli was so great for the Mesoamerican people because it was part of their respective bible called Codex Magliabechiano. This Codex is the same where the Mesoamericans documented the history of the gods, their existence, and the calendar amongst other information such as the painting of the God, Macuilxochitl, watching over players.
The painting of the god of song, dance, and games, Macuilochitl, watching over a game of Patolli.
This can be said the same for the Mesoamerican Ballgame, a game similar but still different to how ancient Chinese Soccer, called Cuju, was played. The same as with Patolli, the Mesoamerican Ballgame is a unique game created on a different continent, spoken by different languages, and played for different purposes.
While Mesoamericans played to appease the gods and were played by both the rich and poor in the hopes of being sacrificed with pride and honor. Cuju was played only by the nobles and wore silk, only the most expensive hand-woven clothing.
The present-day site of Cihuatan, where Mesoamericans played the ball game.
A painting of Ancient Chinese football called Cuju.
While other cultures played games for leisure, Mesoamerican games often involved blood and sacrifice. Playing games was a serious, life-altering event that people took pride in playing. Pachisi was played on beautifully handwoven material, it was an elegant game that could be played any time and anywhere. While Patolli was created on the spot with lines in the ground and tokens were food instead of cowrie shells.
It seems appropriate that the Mesoamericans would bet their six most important valuables, including their life because the culture is bloodier and has stronger beliefs in sacrificial rituals. To play Pachisi you had to have money because the objects used to play the game cost more but a peasant could play Patolli and become rich if the game was won since all social classes were permitted to play.
There are a lot of similarities cultures share. For example, the art form of Blue Wild Indigo has been explored in both Japan and El Salvador, two countries with vastly different cultures over centuries. El Salvador is located in Central America and has deep roots in Mesoamerican ancestry with no relation to Japan or any country from the Far East.
In Central America, the practice of Indigo dying is called, Añil, while in Japan it is called Aizome. Añil clothing was used for both commoners and the ruling class while Aizome was only for the ruling class. Materials such as silk were banned for the poor in Japan. While in Mesoamerica añil was restricted only to clothes, the Japanese were experimenting with the colors of Indigo on houses, pottery, and paintings. As an added bonus did you know that Spanish and Japanese letters are pronounced the same because of the phonetic alphabet? It makes it easier to learn either language for native speakers!
Indigo preparation and displays at Casa Blanca in El Salvador. These Mesoamerican añil designs can be used for clothes, painting, pottery, and jewelry.
Japanese indigo dye made for a man’s kimono.
The same material found in both cultures has differences in social class significance and is used for distinctive reasons. Even though the result is the same, both cultures also had different processes for producing Indigo dye and the design patterns share qualities of their culture. This is why I believe Patolli is a unique game created by the Mesoamerican people without any need to be influenced by outside cultures. The Mesoamericans were capable enough to develop their form of ingenuity.
- Japan Objects. 2021. 7 Things You Should Know About Japanese Indigo Dye. [online] Available at: https://japanobjects.com/features/indigo
- The Ball. (2021). Retrieved 29 June 2021, from https://books.google.com.sv/books?id=LD6h3NHeHxgC&printsec=frontcover&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
- About Aizome – SAMUEYA. (2021). Retrieved 29 June 2021, from https://www.samue-e.shop/en/con_02.php
- Teñido con añil (El Salvador) – EcuRed. (2021). Retrieved 29 June 2021, from https://www.ecured.cu/Te%C3%B1ido_con_a%C3%B1il_(El_Salvador)
- @hOMe. (2021). Retrieved 29 June 2021, from https://otagomuseum.nz/athome/how-to-play-patolli
- Hidden History: Patolli, the Game of the Aztecs. (2021). Retrieved 29 June 2021, from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/12/1/1890620/-Hidden-History-Patolli-the-Game-of-the-Aztecs
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