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Patolli: the ancient Mexican board game

While hiking along the Angostura Interpretive Trail—located seven kilometers north of Lake Chapala—I came upon a flat rock about the size and height of a low table.

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Incised upon it was a simple design: a circle divided into four parts by a cross, with a small circle in each section. Outside the design, as if by way of signature, there was a simple sketch of a jaguar’s head.

I had never seen a petroglyph quite like this.

Upon reaching home, I sent a photo of the rock to archaeologist Joseph Mountjoy, who has spent much of his life discovering, cataloging, and interpreting petroglyphs in western Mexico.

“It could be an abbreviated patolli,” replied Mountjoy.

With this message, I was launched into the intriguing story of the pre-Hispanic patolli.

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