THE ORIGINS OF THE GAME: There are many theories as to the origins of billiards. Much of what is known about the evolution of the sport has been limited by the absence of "real" information, concerning the cultures of ancient times. What we've relied upon are the verifiable historical records, which has sadly limited our search considerably. Consequently, most historians trace the origins of billiards to the lawn games played in the royal courts of Europe, in the mid to late 1300's.
But what led to the origin of these lawn games? Uncovered ruins and hieroglyphics offer a possible answer, setting back the timeline thousands of years. "Bat-and-ball" games, from which these lawn games may well have evolved, have been depicted on tombs, artifacts and in drawings, dating back more than 3000 years. Whether these images depict "sport" has been widely debated. Many rightfully claim that not enough is known, that the activities portrayed could very well have been social or religious in nature. Whatever the case, the ancient Greeks and Egyptians clearly utilized the tools—the bats, the balls and other curious devices—in some sort of integral activity. Tools strikingly similar to those wielded by kings, in 14th century lawn games ... yet dated nearly 3000 years earlier, to at least as far back as 1500 BC.
An even earlier discovery—and one seemingly more compelling in proving the role of sport among the ancient cultures—was made during the excavation of a child's grave in Egypt (c. 3300 BC). A complete "Skittles" set was discovered, after more than 5000 years. ("Skittles" is the English game of ninepins, played with a disk or a ball.) The set was as exquisite in its beauty as in its significance. Each gaming piece—9 skittles, 4 balls, and 3 bars to form an arch—was expertly sculpted and polished, comprised of fine marble or stone. Still, the role of sport was debated. Doubters continued to downplay the find, dismissing it as a mere child's toy. As before, they claimed that not enough was known, that without a written record to shed light on its significance, no absolutes could be drawn.
Which inevitably brought us back to where we began: the written historical record. To the undeniable link in the evolution of billiards (and thankfully, the most important). To the traceable truth, which to some degree, most scholars and historians agree on: "... that regardless of the 'finds' locked away in ancient ruins, it's safe to say billiards ultimately evolved from the lawn games of 14th century Europe.
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