Football History - Prehistoric Times - BC

Which was invented first - the wheel or the ball?  Football history is steeped in many stories, passed down through the ages.  Join us, on a journey of exploration through the ages of football history.

 Invention of The Wheel

The earliest evidence of the wheel, or wheeled vehicle comes from the mid 4th millennium BC, in Mesopotamia (today's Iraq and some surrounding areas).  The same place that glass first made an appearance, so it was probably the 'hub' of human existence in those times.  Although, some archaeologists believe the wheel could have been invented around 8000 BC.

There is a famous clay pot, which has been carbon dated to 3500 - 3350 BC, named the Bronocice Pot, excavated in South Poland, which depicts a wagon with two axles and four wheels.  Possibly a war-chariot.

 Invention of The Ball

The earliest records for ball games come from Egyptian tombs, built in 2500 BC, which have given up artefacts showing football type games of the time. The balls were made from animal guts, wrapped in skin, leather or woven materials.  Whether this is part of football history or not, we cannot confirm.

The evidence above does not conclude that the wheel was invented first.  It is more probable that it was the other way round.   But we simply do not know the answer.

Historians have discovered that, around 2000 BC, the Greeks played a game named 'Episkyros', involving both kicking and throwing a ball. The game was normally played in the nude..!  The image on the right is taken from a marble relief in the National Museum of Archeology in Athens.  It shows a Greek athlete, balancing a ball on his thigh, avidly watched by a boy. This image is featured on the current European Cup trophy, so they evidently think it is part of football history.  The Greeks made balls from woven materials or hair, wrapped in string, which were quite hard and would not have bounced well. The ball in the marble relief looks like an inflated ball, which the Greeks named a 'Follis'.  These were a later version and made from pig bladders, wrapped in dried pigskin or deerskin and then inflated.  An alternative way of making balls was to chop up living sponges and wrap them in string or cloth.

Reports of a game resembling football are in a Chinese book, Zhan Guo Ce, written between 300 - 100BC.  The manual describes a game named 'Cuju' ("kick ball"), which involved kicking a ball made of leather through a small hole in a piece of silk cloth, fixed to bamboo canes 9 m above the ground.  During the Han Dynasty, 206 BC–220 AD, Rules for 'Cuju' were documented and can be seen today.  Chinese football history, maybe?

 

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with thanks to Wikipedia

During the same period of time, reports suggest that the Japanese and Koreans also played similar kicking games, named 'Kemari' and 'Chuk-guk' respectively. Japanese and Koreans play football today, so maybe this was the beginning of their football history?

 Roman Britain - 43 AD - Ball Games

Written records started to appear in AD43, when the Romans invaded Britain.  A person named Nennius, in AD 828, wrote in Historia Britonum about ball games being played. The Romans took the Greeks game of Episkyros and adapted it into what became possibly the Romans favourite ball game, named Harpastum.  A Roman politician Cicero (106–43 BC) left a report of a man who was killed whilst having a shave, when a ball was kicked into a barber's shop.  There are many reports of people dying during football history, as we shall discover.

 

 

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