Cover image for Sports and games of the ancients
Sports and games of the ancients
Craig, Steve, 1961-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xii, 271 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV17 .C73 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Based on reports from 19th century explorers, museum artifacts, and other historical documents, the rules, equipment, and diagrams as they are currently understood are provided here for readers, along with suggestions for adapting these sports and games for modern times. Sports enthusiasts and students will find this volume a valuable resource for discovering the earliest beginnings of our modern-day sports.

Divided according to seven geopolitical regions of the world, Sports and Games of the Ancients describes the sports, games, and play of our earliest ancestors. Their need for survival in often hostile conditions enable them to develop skills such as long distance running or archery, and these skills were then practiced in friendly competitions that evolved into our modern-day marathons and Olympic events. Covering such games as Africa's mancala and senet, the martial arts of Asia, the log run and Tejo of Latin America, and the boomerang and surfing of Oceania, this volume provides a solid picture of the sports and games of our ancient ancestors.

Author Notes

STEVE CRAIG is an award-winning sportswriter who has previously authored Sportswriting: A Beginner's Guide.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The Statesman's Yearbook is one of the reference librarian's standard resources for current political information. This electronic version, updated monthly, is very useful in a rapidly changing world. The home page has a world map and a column with search options on the left. Users may click on a region of the map, type terms in the search box, or use pull-down menus to browse by place, international organization, person, or abbreviation. Other features include an extensive directory of international organizations and a chronology of world events from 1999 to the present with a special link covering the war on terrorism. In the World Today offers analysis of current events, and Compare Statistics allows users to create a bar graph or table comparing population, per capita gross domestic product, or Human Development Index of two or more countries. The site also has an abbreviations list and a metric and Celsius converter. The basic search is by keyword. The advanced mode allows three types of searches: Boolean, Concept, or Pattern. Concept means that using the term naval will also search navy, maritime, and marine. Pattern will include variant spellings, such as defense and defence. Searches can also be limited by one or more categories, such as "Culture" and "Natural Disasters." The 192 country profiles contain basic maps and data such as capital and population as well as links to information on politics, the economy, international affairs, natural resources and environment, the military, and the legal, health-care, and educational systems, among other topics. Users will also find profiles of cities and biographies of key figures. All articles have lists of further reading and resources, and there are more than 3,000 links to relevant Web sites, including government departments, major companies, newspapers, and more. The In the World Today feature, which has sections on World News, Elections, Economy, and Political Conflict and Terrorism, is updated daily. Featured subjects on December 9, 2002, included President Bush's nomination of a new Secretary of the Treasury, the national strike in Venezuela, the state of the world economy in October and November 2002, and an agreement to end separatist violence in Indonesia. Links to information about the Bush administration, a biography of Hugo Chavez, and articles about the economic policies of Venezuela, the International Monetary Fund, and the territory and population of Indonesia helped to place these events in context. Nonsubscribers can access In the World Today, although they cannot use the links to other SYBWorld content. SYBWorld describes itself as a "one-stop resource for students, teachers, scholars, journalists, policy makers, and government officials--indeed for everyone seeking to understand our times." Although it does not offer in-depth analysis, this site does an excellent job of providing detailed overviews of the world's countries and current events. It is easy to use, and it will be a welcome addition for academic, public, and high-school libraries.Reference Books in BriefThe following is a list of additional recent and recommended reference sources.

Library Journal Review

Many of today's sports are linked to those of the distant past. The study of the sports and games of varied cultures is therefore important, as this knowledge offers insights that help us understand our own culture and its heritage. In about 88 entries, this reference work traces the history, development, and rules of play for hundreds of sports and games from around the world. The book is divided into chapters representing seven different geographic regions of the world, although, curiously, it is not divided by continents. Craig (Sports Writing: A Beginner's Guide), a freelance writer and winner of the New Hampshire Sports Writer of the Year award, discovers that sports and games participation among indigenous people found in diverse locations share a number of commonalities. Some sports, such as archery, running, and wrestling, are found in every culture in ancient times and thus seem to be innate forms of activities for all humans. In addition, women were generally treated as second-class citizens in the sports world throughout time and in nearly all societies. This well-written reference is recommended for public and academic libraries. [Titles already available in this series include Sports and Games of Medieval Cultures and Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries; the next title will be Sports and Games of the Renaissance.-Ed.]-Tim Delaney, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-This superbly researched book, arranged by geographic regions, focuses on the development of sports and games and the effect they had on the lives of people from the first Olympiad to the fall of Rome. Craig defines sports as "rule governed" and with "some degree of organization" and, usually, a "victor or superior performers." Games may use boards or dice while play stresses participation over winning, can happen whenever time allows, and doesn't require an audience. The history of the sports and games of Asia, Europe, North America, Egypt, and the Middle East have been well documented and are covered in depth. Less is known about these activities in Africa, Oceania, and Latin America; however, many are included for those regions as well. Women's roles are discussed when possible, but Craig notes a lack of verifiable information in this area. The author provides descriptions of each sport, explains essential equipment (including how to make it), and the rules of play. He provides enough information so that the activities described can be re-created, but readers will have to rely on text descriptions since there are few diagrams or photographs. Mancala, stick fighting, sumo wrestling (for both men and women), go, the log run, tejo, boomerangs, buzkashi, kabaddi, and Chinese football are among the topics covered. The material provided is not readily available in other single resources. This title will interest researchers and teachers searching for ways of extending their lessons on different cultures. A solid purchase.-Michael McCullough, Byron-Bergen Middle School, Bergen, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Using the world regions as his geographic foundation, sportswriter Craig provides a panoramic view of the nature of nonwork physical activity in the ancient world. The author categorizes these activities as sports (activities that were organized, governed by rules, and determined by a winner or superior performance); play (generally activities with little organization, in which participation was valued more than winning); and games (usually involving board or dice and varying from simple games of chance played as a leisure pursuit to more complicated types played for financial gain). The chapter introductions present a concise regional history relevant to the evolvement of sports, games, and play activities and to the reasons for participation, e.g., military and religious ones. Descriptions follow of activities that were representative of and unique to the region, e.g., magura, an Iraqi children's game (Middle East); snow snake, an Iroquois winter sport (North America); and senet, a board game from Egypt (Africa). The author modified one activity for each region for modern play. Craig has produced an extraordinary trove for sports historians. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above. E. English St. Bonaventure University

Table of Contents

Andrew Leibs
Series Forewordp. vii
Introductionp. ix
Africap. 1
Asiap. 39
Europep. 79
Latin Americap. 115
Middle Eastp. 147
North Americap. 175
Oceaniap. 219
Bibliographyp. 255
Indexp. 265