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World’s Top 10 Oldest Sports (Revealed)

Have you ever wondered which was the first ever sport competitively ever played ? Well we dig deep in the history books and bring you the top 10 oldest sports according to artifacts found around the world.

We could write this article in two different ways, A) Oldest Sports ever known B) Oldest sports according to official competitive events. So we try to merge both and come up with a list with actual facts and evidence.

Wrestling

  • Earliest evidence found: c 15,300 years ago in Upper Paleolithic era
  • Territory of Origin: Greece and France
  • Competitive debut: In Paris, France early 1830’s

Comes without any surprise, Wrestling is by far the oldest sport ever known to man and it actually comes with documented evidence to support the claim.

According to one of many “fragment of papyrus” found back in 18th century instructions on how to wrestle and some other details makes Wresting oldest sport with documented evidence.

Ancient wrestling is widely mentioned in several fragments of papyrus found and one such fragment actually have alot of details for a competitive fight during 100 and 200 A.D. The fragment contains details of a wrestling match between two teenagers named Nicantinous and Demetrius. It was also the first ever evidence of match fixing.

According to fragment in greek language, Nicantinous father and Demetrius trainer agreed that Demetrius must “fall three times and yield.” and loser will be paid 3,800 drachmas. Text also details that if Demetrius fail to comply with contract he will be penalized 18,000 drachmas.

Now as far as the modern times are concerned, Wrestling was one of the first sport to have been included in Olympics according to Olympic history.

Professional wrestling dates back to 1830s with documented evidence and was played in Paris, France.

Today’s wresting has evolved and bacame mainstream around the world. it is still part of olympics and there are other professional circuits where as a sport Wrestling is very popular.

Running/Sprinting

  • Earliest evidence found: c 15,300 years ago in Upper Paleolithic era
  • Territory of Origin: France
  • Competitive debut: In Ireland back in 1831 as a recreation and competitive sport.

Just like wrestling, running/sprinting as a sport first appear in fragments found from Upper Paleolithic era (15,300 years ago) and the earliest depictions found of sprinting is in the Lascaux caves in France.

Running/Sprinting was part of the very first set of sport which took place in the first ever Olympics dating back to 776 BCE.

While many believe the first ever recorded competition involving running/sprinting took place in ireland back in 1831.

Archery

  • Earliest evidence found: c 10,000 years ago towards the end of Upper Paleolithic era
  • Territory of Origin: Oldest evidence is found in Africa
  • Competitive debut: Included in the modern Olympics back in 1900

Bow and Arrow were invented towards the end of Upper Paleolithic era, than archery was used as hunting and in warfare in different regions. As a sport it dates back to very first ancient Olympics in different disciplines.

As far as the recorded history goes, Archary was part of sports in Olympics back in 1900, 1904, 1908 and 1920. Than it was withdrawn as a sport from Olympics and return from 1972 Olympics to till date.

Swiming

  • Earliest evidence found: c.6000 BCE
  • Territory of Origin: Oldest evidence is found in Libyan Desert
  • Competitive debut: As a competitive sport in England

Humans developed the skills to swim thousands of years ago and very first depictions of swiming activity can be found in what is now known as “Cave of swimmers” in Gilf Kebir plateau (Libyan desert).

Swiming became competitive sport back in 19th century in England where it was introduce as recreation and competitive sport. It was first introduce in Olympics back in 1896 as men sport.

Swimming as a sport is one of the most prominent event in Olympics every four years. Both men and women participate in several swimming disciplines in a bid to win Olympic medals for their country.

Polo

  • Earliest evidence found: 4th Century (310’s AD)
  • Territory of Origin: Oldest evidence is found in persian empire.
  • Competitive debut: As a competitive sport it was developed in Indian sub-continent during British empire era

Polo as a sport dates back to the peak of Persian empire in central Asia back in 4th century. It was developed as a team sport for the Persian royals who learned to ride horses early in their lifes. The earliest evidence found was from 316 AD.

As sport with rules and regulation it was developed further by british empire during their tenure in Indian subcontinent.

Boxing

  • Earliest evidence found: earliest evidence of boxing comes from Ancient Mesopotamia from the Sumerian civilization
  • Territory of Origin: Sumerian civilization which is modern day Iraq..
  • Competitive debut: As a competition it dates back to Roman times when it was fought till death with leather like wrappings on fists. Modern citation comes when it was included as a competitive sport in ancient Olympics back in 688 BCE.

Romans also had boxing like sport where two fighters would wear leather thong and fight till death.

Fist fighting in England dates back to 17th century with “bare knuckle” boxing with rules and regulations. The rules included 30 second count out and not hitting below the chest and while the opponent is down.

Gymnastics

  • Earliest evidence found: c. 500 BCE
  • Territory of Origin: Ancient Greece.
  • Competitive debut: As a competitive sport it was introduced in Olympics back in 1890’s

earliest evidence of Gymnastics are found in ancient greek history. It was introduced as just set of training methods for Army. When Romans invaded Greece they adopted the Gymnastics training for their army and that is how it was brought to Europe.

As far as the modern Gymnastics are concerned it dates back to 18th century when it was included in Ancient Olympics.

international federation for Gymnastic was formed back in 1891 and since than Gymnastics has been part of modern Olympics in both men and women categories.

Football

  • Earliest evidence found: first evidence of ball game comes from China with a sport called Tsu Chu or Cuju
  • Territory of Origin: China.
  • Competitive debut: Football as a sport with official rules & regulations was developed in England in 19th century.

Football history is vague as there were so many sport which included “ball game” around the world. One of the very first evidence of ball game comes from China with a sport called Tsu Chu or Cuju back in c.2500 BCE. FIFA “The world governing body of Football” actually recognize Tsu Chu as the very first form of football ever discovered which makes China as inventors of the game.

In Europe there were several forms of “ball games” played in 13th and 14th century specialy in England where a sport called “mob ball” was played where participants were unlimited.

The very first rules and regulation of sport are found in England when football was introduce to children at school.

England defeated Scotland in the very first competitive football match with the laws and regulation of the game defined by than governing body FA.

In the 19th century football was played around England and became very popular. The very first club ever formed is “Sheffield United” back in 1857 and soon after modern rules were introduced and first ever league was created in England.

Hurling

  • Earliest evidence found: earliest evidence found is 300 year old
  • Territory of Origin: Ireland.
  • Competitive debut: Hurling as a sport being played in ireland with official rules and regulations since early 1900’s.

Hurling has been played in Ireland for best part of last 3000 years making it one of the oldest sports in the world. However it did not become a worldwide sport, football actually stems from Hurling early days in England. So its only right we mentioned this one of the oldest yet unknown sport to the world.

Chess

  • Earliest evidence found: earliest evidence found is from 6th century in persian history of a game which has striking similarities to modern chess.
  • Territory of Origin: unknow but games with striking similarities was played in persia, India and China

Now Chess actually dates back to 6th century according to some of the evidence found in persian history. Some historians claim it started in India, persia and some says it comes from China. However regardless of the origin, Chess documented history goes back to 1350 years ago when it was introduced in Europe.

It was different on those times to what we know Chess today however modern Chess has striking similarities to what was played so many centuries ago.

NO#SPORTORIGINCOMPETITIVE DEBUT
1Wrestling15,300 years agoProfessional wrestling dates back to 1820's in Paris, France
2Running/Sprinting15,300 years agoFirst competitive running event took place in ireland in 1830
3Archery10,000 years agoArchery made its debut in Olympics back in 1900
4Swimming6000 years agobecame part of Olympics in 1896 as a men sport.
5Boxing1200 years ago1891 professional fights were held under the banner of "National sporting club"
6Gymnastic1000 years agobecame part of Olympics in 1890's
7Chess1000 years agochess is being played professional since the 19th century
9Football800 years agoFootball turned professional in England in late 1870's
9Hurling300 years agoHurling as competitive sport dates back to early 1900's
10Polo200 years agodeveloped as a team sport under the British emipre in India in early 1900's

Written By

Writes about financial aspects of major sports specially the ones in motorsports like Formula 1, MotoGP.

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