The Artifacts of SOTTR: Patolli and Llama Canopa

Hi there Tomb Raider fans. I will bounce in the future between Maya and Inca as well as other South American and Mesoamerican cultures on my article updates because of the cultural influences and locations of the game. That aside let’s explore some artefacts from Shadow of the Tomb Raider. One being Peruvian and the other being Mesoamerican.

If you have played the recent release Shadow of the Tomb Raider you know that it mentions a game played by many people from many cultural class categories within the Mesoamerican world.

As you play through the Shadow of the Tomb Raider you will collect various items. Many are classified as “relics” and they range from games to dolls, and everything in between that was significant to Inca and Mesoamerican culture. In this segment, I will explore the Mesoamerican board game known as Patolli and then we will learn about the Inca origin canopa.

This game is one of the oldest games in America. The example shown in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is accurate as to what it looks like. However, there are bigger ones for they range in size depending on what they were created from.

As Lara narrates the information about this game when you find it I will expound on her words.

The Ancient Game Patolli

The Patolli game as seen from SOTTR

Patolli Video

Make sure you watch the following video about Patolli. It is well represented and very informative.

Patolli is a game played by the Aztec people. Read more at the following link to understand who the Aztec people are and the Nahua are and the language  Pipil and Nahuatl

The name “Patolli” comes from the Aztec word for “bean” It more than likely was in reference to fava or kidney beans. However, it was not only the Aztecs that played this game, for all of the Mesoamerican cultures played it. In the game, we see there is a narrative from Lara about Patolli. The people of Paititi in the plot of Shadow of the Tomb Raider played this game. Because they were Maya. However, in reality, South American tribes never had Patolli and the Maya people never lived in South America. But that is the only fiction here for the game indeed does exist.

Game History


The game can be traced as far as 200 BC in association with the Teotihuacanos. It is also traced to the Toltecs (ca. 750-1000), Chichen Itza residents played it along with Zapotecs, Mixtecs and of course the Maya according to Anthropologist E. Adamson Hoebel.

The game, in general, has a heavy hand in gambling. The players would meet and examine what each had to gamble as treasure in the game. They ranged from blankets, gold, food, precious stones and even their homes, which is not different from what gambling can lead to in our society today. Basically, the goal of the game is to win your opponent’s treasure.

The number six is significant for each player must have six items to bet because there is that number of markers. The player must give an item away with each completion round he makes with his marker. Each player must invoke the god of games, Macuilxochitl before they start to play. This is their traditional procedure as from their culture.

Game elements

They usually used about five black beans for dice. These beans had holes on one of their sides for markings. This idea is reminiscent of our conventional cube-shaped dice today with dots on each side for numbers. Very interesting origin. As for the playing pieces they were usually six red beans and six blue pebbles, however, they could also use jade pieces or maize kernels.

As you can see the board is shaped like an X and it has 52 squares. Sometimes you could find one of these games carved onto a tabletop or mastered on a piece of leather etc. It would be fascinating to play this game today, and it is reported that it is still played. Now let us look at the ever-popular alpaca / Llama canopa of Peru.

 The llama Canopa

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