The history of sports can be traced back to tens and thousands of years ago. The majority of humankind’s earliest sports developed out of indulging in various activities and the need for using equipment for survival. Many of the modern sports that we follow actively today find their roots in some of the world’s earliest civilizations. Here is a look at 7 sports that have surprisingly old origins.
1. Javelin Throwing
Javelin throwing has been a part of the Olympics since 1906 and is a big part of the tournament today. This track-and-field sport of throwing a spear as far as possible was first introduced in the Olympiad of 708 BC, also known as the Ancient Greek Olympics. Interestingly, the spear that is used today in the sport is much heavier than the ones used in the earlier days of javelin throwing.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
The origins of hockey can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Some engravings, like the one above, dating back to 600 BC depict people playing with curved sticks and a ball.
It is believed that the first time the word ‘hockey’ was used was in 1363 by Edward III of England. Before that, it was called ‘shinty’. The sport found immense fame in Asia and has gone on to become one of the most popular sports in the world. Field hockey is also very similar to Beikou (pronounced "Bay-Ko") – an ancient sport played by the Daur people of Inner Mongolia for the past 1.000 years. Beikou means "stick with a curved root".
Field hockey was first played at the Summer Olympics in 1908, and since then, it has been a regular and popular feature of the event.
Gymnastics originated in Ancient Greece around 500 BC where it was used for military training. In the Greek Hellenistic period (c.323 BC – 31 BC), the method became quite popular and gymnastics was eventually included in the Olympiad. Even the Romans used gymnastics for training purposes after they invaded Greece. However, the Olympics were outlawed in 393 AD, and gymnastics as an activity was almost forgotten in the years to follow.
Two German doctors – Johann Friedrich GutsMuths and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn – are said to have revived gymnastics when they created an exercise regimen for boys that included a modern pommel horse, horizontal bar, parallel bar, balance beam, ladder, and vaulting horse. It later evolved into a proper sport and found its way into the Olympics in 1896. Since then, gymnastics has become the most anticipated and crucial part of the event.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Archery was a significant part of human history, and the bow and arrow are said to have been invented around 20.000 BC (near the end of the Upper Paleolithic era). In the early ages, archery was used for hunting. The evidence for this can be found in the history of various cultures. Ancient Egyptians, who adopted archery around 3.000 BC for hunting and warfare, are known to be the earliest people to regularly use bows and arrows.
The Persians, Parthians, Indians, as well as the Chinese and Japanese, are some of the other early civilizations who used archers in their armies. Archery made its debut as an Olympic sport in 1900 and has been a regular event in the tournament since 1972.
5. Running and Sprinting
Since it doesn’t require any equipment, running is considered the world’s oldest sport. It is almost impossible to specify the exact time when running developed as a sport, but it is believed that humans began running sometime around four and a half million years ago. The Lascaux caves in France depict one of the earliest representations of running, dating back about 15.300 years ago (in the Upper Paleolithic era).
The first recorded running event, also called The Tailteann Games, was held in Ireland in 1829 BC. In the first-ever Olympics in 776 BC, the foot race was the first observed event. Running has now evolved into a proper sport and is part of countless sports competitions across the globe.
Humans have been swimming for thousands of years. Some of the earliest portrayals of this activity have been found in prehistoric drawings from the southwestern part of Egypt - in the Cave of Swimmers in the Gilf Kebir plateau. Back then, swimming was a mode of survival rather than a recreational or health activity. While humans have been swimming since the prehistoric era, it only became an active sport in the 1800s.
England is the first country that recognized swimming as a recreation and competitive sport. Through the 1800s, various swimming competitions were held in different parts of England in man-made pools. In 1896, swimming made its entry into the Olympics, and since then, it has been an integral part of various sporting competitions worldwide.
Wrestling is an ancient sport and was first portrayed in cave drawings in France about 15.000 years ago. Many artifacts belonging to Babylon have shown ancient wrestlers in action. Ancient Egyptians, too, are believed to have practiced wrestling, as several pictures in the tombs at Beni Hasan have depicted wrestling scenes. Greek wrestling was a famous kind of martial art through the period of Ancient Greece (1110 - 146 BC). Historians believe that it had been featured as a sport in the 18th Olympiad in 704 BC.
New York City hosted the first organized national wrestling competition in 1888. A few years later, the sport made its way into the Olympics in 1904.