Where are the earliest recorded instances of bowling?


Bowling is a popular sport and family activity, and one which tends to particularly evoke images of guys and gals donning retro shirts along with blue and red shoes in vintage Americana. While some may say this was bowling's golden era, records of the activity have traced its history much further back in time. 


The ancient Egyptians are thought to have played the sport, with the remnants of a bowling ball and pins found during archaeological digs in the country. This would date some of the first instances of the sport to approximately several thousand years ago, meaning this sport's history is long and varied. The British explorer Sir Flinders Petrie is believed to have discovered bowling equipment in a child's tomb in Egypt during an excavation in the 1930s. 


The sport has enjoyed a rich history in Europe too, with evidence dating the presence of the sport in Germany as early as 300 A.D. In this country, bowling is thought to have taken on a more religious significance, with Germanic monks using a variation of the game in the church. This view is supported by the historian William Pehle, who discussed the rise of the sport in his works, which was called kegeling locally. This label is still applied to bowling in German-speaking countries, as well as some areas of the United States.


A version of bowling, called 'ula maika' is thought to have existed in the Polynesian islands during the 18th century. Islanders would play the game along a piece of land that measured around 60 foot, which is a similar length to the modern bowling lane. Pieces of whetstone measuring 3-4 inches were moulded into oval shapes, and used to hit targets at the opposite end of the assigned ground. The marker discs are believed to have been called 'ula', and so gave rise to the name of the game.