Lost Ancient Sports: Part 2


Sports are such an ubiquitous presence in our daily lives that it is hard to imagine a time when they didn’t exist. While modern sports can usually only trace their roots back a hundred years or so, ancient humans had their own games which pitted teams against each other, often with bloody results. So lets take a look at some sports that are lost in the tide of time.


Skin-pulling was a popular game played by the Scandinavian Vikings during the middle ages, between the 16th and 19th centuries. It was much like the modern rope-pulling game known as tug-of-war.

Tug-of-war, as we know it, is a game involving two teams of players who pull at each end of a rope until the players of one team stumbles and falls to the ground, or falls into a river or lake separating both teams. The team that falls to the ground or water loses the game. Sometimes a line is drawn in the middle, in the absence of a river or water, and the team that succeeds in pulling their opponents to their side of the line wins.

The Viking version of tug-of-war, though, was much more violent than the modern one. The game is referred to as skin pulling because ‘’Animal skins’’ were used instead of a rope, and the game was played over a pit of fire instead of a river or dividing line. So members of the losing team would dramatically fall into the pit of fire and get roasted alive

 The members of the winning team would then plunder all the wealth, property, and possessions of their opponents and take their families as slaves.


The fisherman’s joust was a form of water-sport played in ancient Egypt that was played on floating boats in the Nile river.

Two teams of seven or eight used to row down to the river and fight each other with paddles. The objective of the game was simple, and that was to knock all the players of the other team standing on the other boat off their boats and thus gaining victory. The players, who fell in to the waters, were then unfortunately eaten by the residing crocodiles.

Since crocodiles were sacred animals in Ancient Egypt, players would be better off just letting them eat them, because even if they managed to repel the crocodiles with oar, they would probably be bludgeoned to death by high priests once they swam ashore. In addition, swimming was not as universally practiced as it is today, and many of the fishermen drowned simply because they didn’t know how to swim.

The water also used to be infested with angry hippopotamuses that were hostile towards humans. So during the crocodiles’ absence, the hippopotamuses took action against the fallen players.



One of the earliest sports played in what is now the United States, chunkey was developed by the Mississippian culture and centered around the ancient city of Cahokia.

Basically, any number of people participated on either of two teams, though it was usually just one-on-one. A small stone disk was rolled from the starting point and the opposing teams would throw spears at the area at which they thought the disk would end up.

Spreading to much of the Native Americans of the Southeast, chunkey is believed to have played a major role in joining the different tribes together, as they formed one of the largest North American civilizations north of Mesoamerica. Each tribe had unique rules, but the spirit of the game was the same.

The sport was taken so seriously, and gambling so ingrained in the culture of chunkey, that losers would even commit suicide in some cases, normally because they had wagered all of their possessions.