A tapered headdress-its base formed by a grotesque head with upturned snout-soars majestically above a serene human face in this thin stone head. Such heads probably were used in ballgame ceremonies, though we are not sure how. Equally obscure are the heads' identities. They could represent heroic, idealized players, ballgame patrons, or characters from the game's lore, among other things. Pigment traces suggest the head originally was painted; the large area of red pigment on one side may have been sprinkled after the head was buried in an offering or a tomb.
In this drawing, based on a wall relief in El Tajín's South Ballcourt, a ballplayer is shown with a hip protector around his waist. The protector supports a palma at the front and an hacha-like head at the back. Drawing from Sculptures of El Tajín, Fig. 22, University of Florida Press, 1972