Note: The images on this homepage and subsequent pages are copyrighted: copyright 1998 P.S. Neeley, all rights reserved.

Mayan Bul for Windows

Bul (pronounced like 'Bull' ) is an ancient Mayan war game. Stewart Culin, an ethnologist and curator of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, included it, as observed among the Kekchi Maya by two different observers, in his great 1907 anthology of Indian games. R.C. Bell included yet another observer's report of the game among the Kekchi in his anthology of the world's great board games. Lieve Verbeeck, a modern Mayan linguist, stumbled across the Belizean version of this game and observed it played by today's Mopan and Kekchi Maya. In a private communication, Lieve wrote:

>>But neither can I give you hard evidence that the corn game, as it is now still played by the Mopan and K'ekchi' Mayans,(who are neighbours), was known in the ancient times. There is linguistic evidence that the ancient Mayans used to play games of chance. The name of BUL occurs in several Mayan languages and always means to play with dice. Sometimes, by extension, it means "to lose with gambling". There is archaeological evidence that the Mayans knew the square- and oval-shaped patolli boards. There are many sites throughout the Maya area where archaeologists found patterns of patolli boards carved in floors or benches. Unfortunately there are no BUL boards found (yet??) ... Anyway I don't have any thrilling stories for you about famous BUL contests in the ancient times. Only three Maya manuscripts were safeguarded from the Spanish conquerors. Up till now no reference to Maya board games was found. Of course there are a few pictures displaying priests throwing corn or seeds for divination, just like the one Nancy McNelly used in the title of her page ( Culin's version of BUL is quite accurate. I observed the game being played by 10 men. They placed 25 grains of corns in a row. The game lasted for 3 hours, because they played 5 variants.<<

Although there is as of yet no hard evidence that Bul is an ancient Mayan game, most researchers would agree that it almost certainly is one. Culin must have thought so too because he reserved a special section of his work to showcase games that seemed to him to have been derived from European influences, and Bul is not among them. Further Bul seems to reflect ancient Maya warfare (see 'War, violence, and board games . . .')

Now this ancient Mayan war game is here again in the present, recreated through the magic of electrons and phosphorus, for you to play. Welcome to a game of the ancient Maya -- Shield-Jaguar, Lady Eveningstar, Smoking-Frog, Jaguar-Paw, Lady Great-Skull, and now you!

Download now (1.1Mb)

Interested in just the rules and history of the game?  Then download just the Windows Help file if you'd like.

Note: This program requires VBRUN300.DLL to exist on your system.

Back to the P.S. Neeley HomePage