The History of Sports – Neolithic to Modern day

Sports have been around for a thousand of years. There is some neolithic age artwork proving this. In the Lascaux caves in France there were cave paintings found believed to be about 15,000 years old. These drawings are believed to be showing humans wrestling and running. Around 10,000 B.C.E there was paintings showing Egyptians wrestling and an early form of archery. There were also another set of cave paintings in Mongolia showing a wrestling match dating back to around 7,000 B.C.E.

What were some first documented sports?

The Olympics held in ancient Greece were the first documented sports. The first one taking place in 776 B.C.E. In these games there was only one event which was a footrace. These games held early on were only to honor the god Zeus. As time went on more sports were added to the Olympics. Around 700 B.C.E. along with the foot race they had discus, javelin, wrestling, and the long jump. Around 680 B.C.E. boxing and chariot racing were added. In these game sit was only the male citizens of Greece who were permitted to participate married women were not even allowed to spectate.

It is believed that in China during the Han dynasty as far back as around 5,000 B.C.E. there was an early form of football (Soccer) being played. This early form of football was called Tsu-Chu which means “kick ball”. Players were able to use parts of their bodies but not their hands. They also had to score by kicking the ball through a hole in a net. There are other items that show that other sports were played in China around 2,500 B.C.E. such as gymnastics.

During the middle ages there was an emergence of some new types of sports. Most of the sports of this time were rough, dangerous, and violent. Unlike the religious meaning behind the original Olympics games the games during the middle ages were more of a way to increase fighting skills among the knights and soldiers. Most of their sporting events were set around festivals. People from all over would come and watch these events. Some more popular events were archery and the joust.

Some other sports played during this time period was Horseshoes which was very similar to today’s version, Hammer throw, Shinty similar to today’s field hockey, Colf an ancestor to today’s golf, and Skittles an early form of our 10 pin bowling.

When did modern day sports come about?


The first modern Olympics were held in 1896 in Athens, Greece. They had around 280 participants from 13 nations still all males. There were now 43 events some included were track and field, gymnastics, tennis, weightlifting, shooting, and fencing among many others.

Most of our modern day team sports have been traced back mainly to Britain. Many of these sports came about because of the Gambling Act of 1664. The main sports that were backed by gambling were Cricket, Boxing, and Horse racing.

Cricket was a sport that was originated in the south-eastern region of England in the later part of the 16th century. In the early half of the 1700’s cricket was established as London’s leading sport. By the 18th century it was introduced in other parts of the world.

The modern game of baseball was created in 1845. The New York Knickerbocker baseball club created the first rules and regulations that became the accepted standard for the modern game of baseball. The Knickerbockers played their first game against a cricket team in 1846. In 1887 softball was invented as a from of indoor baseball.

American football was derived from the sports rugby and soccer. In 1869 players from Princeton and Rutgers held the first intercollegiate football contest in New Jersey. It was considered a soccer-rugby style game. Walter Camp, is known as the “Father of American Football.” He was most responsible for the transition from this rugby-like game to the sport of football we know today. In November 1892, a Pittsburgh Athletic Club, AAA player name William (Pudge) Heffelfinger was paid $500 to participate in the game, making him the first-ever professional football player.

Women and sports in ancient times?

Women competing in sporting events was always looked down upon. There is evidence from drawings and other art work that women in ancient civilizations competed in some forms of sports. There existed women athletes in Greek, Egyptian, and Minoan civilizations. Carvings on tombs, art, and paintings in Egypt provide proof that women were involved in swimming and also ballgames which seemed to resemble a form of soccer.

In Greece, the city of Sparta which was a militarist state was known to have girls and women engage in racing, discus, wrestling, and javelin. They had the women engage in these activities because they felt in order for the women to have strong children they needed to be strong themselves. They were also expected to be able to defend themselves as well as their homeland.

Women in Modern Day Sports?

Women's Soccer

Between the 16th century to 19th century sports such as golf, croquet, and archery were accepted as appropriate sports for women in the upper class. This was mainly because it did not involve physical contact or large amounts of physical exertion. Women also became active in cricket. There are documented case of women playing in Sussex. They were also starting to play trapball, an early version of baseball in the 18th century.

During the late 19th century and early 20th century there was a huge change for women in sports. In this period professional sports became what most people associate with today. During this time women were starting to compete in tennis, bowling, and rowing, and cycling.

In 1924, the Games were held in Paris. With about 3,000 athletes there were more than 100 women among them from 44 nations. Unfortunately, the international press rarely covered women’s sports and non-white athletes were pretty much ignored. At the 2016 Rio Olympics there were women competing from every continent. There was an increase in girls’ and women’s participation in sports influenced by the women’s rights and feminist movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Now women athletes and women’s sports spectating is at an all time high.


Sports over the course of history have undergone many transformations. There have been various improvements in technology which make the game more exciting, safer, and able to be seen around the world. The increase of women athletes has dramatically changed the culture of both fans and athletes. Sports will continue to change when the need calls for it. Hopefully we don’t lose any of the fun and excitement.

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