The history of sports may extend as far back as the beginnings of military training, with competition used as a mean to determine whether individuals were fit and useful for service.Did you know that some sports have been played since as early as 7000 BC? For enjoyment, for health, and for competition, people have been participating in sports for centuries.
Take a look at some of the oldest sports that are still in moderation today -

1 Running/Sprinting

Sprinters. A racing scene from a Panathenaic amphora. Sixth Century.

The San rock art of Drakensberg feature the oldest depictions of sports in history. And that sport is running. Different kinds of running from bull-running to sprinting to cross country running. The San retain the endurance and running habit of their ancestors. Those skills are needed for their style of persistence hunting, killing by stalking.


The first event in the first ever Olympics in 776 BCE was a foot race. Although this date is often cited as the start of running as a sport, one of the earliest recorded running competitions was held in Ireland in 1829 BCE.

Year Invented : Upper Paleolithic era c.15,300 years ago
Country of Origin : Unknown – oldest depictions from France

2 Wrestling


Along with running, wrestling was first depicted by the people who lived near the Lascaux caves in France over 15,300 years ago. Some of the first depictions of wrestling as a sport can be traced back to the Sumerians, who lived around 5,000 years ago.A papyrus fragment was found with wrestling instructions on it, dating somewhere between 100 and 200 AD. And after all this time, it is still one of the most popular sports in the world.

Detail of the wrestling scenes in tomb 15 (Baqet III) at Beni Hasan
Year Invented : Upper Paleolithic era c. 15,300 years ago
Country of Origin : Unknown – oldest depictions from France

Also read : Calcio Fiorentino: The Brutal Tradition Of Italy

3 Archery


Archery may have been another sport, though it is difficult to identify recreational archery or competitive archery from hunting of warring in the cave or rock art. Though there are some evidences in the San rock art of people wielding bows and arrows without the presence of an enemy or an animal.


In addition to the Egyptians, other ancient civilizations – the Persians, Parthians, Indians, Chinese, and Japanese – had a large number of archers in their armies. Archery made its Olympic debut in 1900 and was featured in the next 1904, 1908, and 1920 before returning in 1972; it is still currently a part of the Olympics.

Year Invented : c.20,000 BCE
Country of Origin : Unknown – oldest evidence found in Africa

4 Swimming


10,000-year-old rock paintings of people swimming were found in the Cave of Swimmers near Wadi Sura in southwestern Egypt. These pictures seem to show breaststroke or doggy paddle, although it is also possible that the movements have a ritual meaning unrelated to swimming. An Egyptian clay seal dated between 9000 BC and 4000 BC shows four people who are believed to be swimming a variant of the front crawl.


Although people have been swimming since the prehistoric era, swimming did not become a competitive sport until the 1800s. England is credited as the first country to participate in swimming as a recreation and competitive sport and the National Swimming Society of England organized these early competitions, which were immediately popular. Swimming first appeared at the Olympics in 1896 as a men’s sport.

Year Invented : c.6000 BCE
Country of Origin : Unknown – oldest depictions from Libyan Desert; as a competitive sport, England

5 Boxing


The origins of boxing can be traced back to the Ancient Mesopotamia from the Sumerian civilization. The earliest known depiction of boxing comes from a Sumerian relief from the early third or second millennium BCE. It depicts two men without gloves, facing each other with their arms bent and fists clinched.

A boxing scene depicted on a Panathenaic amphora from Ancient Greece, circa 336 BC, British Museum

Other ancient cultures boxed bare fisted and the Minoans appear to be the first civilization to use boxing gloves. Boxing first appeared in the Olympics at the 23rd Olympiad in 688 BCE and the boxers wound leather thongs around their hands for protection. Modern boxing evolved from 16th and 18th-century prizefights in Great Britain.

Year Invented : c.3000 BCE
Country of Origin : Ancient southern Mesopotamia (by the Sumerian civilization) – modern-day Iraq

Also read : No Headgears No Shoes No Singlets! These Women Wrestle in Skirts

6 Tsu Chu or Cuju


Tsu Chu is a ball game from ancient China, which emerged sometime around 2500 BCE. The objective of Tsu Chu is to kick a ball through an opening in a small net and it is recognized by FIFA as the earliest form of football (soccer). According to FIFA, Tsu Chu was first mentioned as an exercise in a military manual dating back to the second and third centuries BCE. During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 AD), Tsu Chu became popular among the royal courts and upper classes and the Han emperor Wu Di supposedly also enjoyed the sport. Tsu Chu began to decline in popularity during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644).

Year Invented : c.2500 BCE
Country of Origin : China

7 Mesoamerican Ballgame


The Mesoamerican Ballgame, which does not really have an official name, was a popular sport across ancient Mesoamerica and was played by all of this region’s major civilizations including the Olmecs, Aztecs, and Maya. The game was most likely invented by the Olmec sometime between 2500 – 100 BCE. In addition to being a sport, the game was an important part of Mesoamerican mythology and religion – some cultures used the game to choose the human sacrifices for religious ceremonies. Over time, different versions of the game were developed and more modern version of the game, ulama, is still played by the indigenous population of the area.

Year Invented : c.2500 BCE
Country of Origin : Ancient Mesoamerica (the area extended from modern-day central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica)

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