Throwing stone balls along a lane might have been a popular game in ancient Egypt, according to evidence unearthed some 56 miles south of Cairo by Italian archaeologists.

Ancient Game

A mixture of bowling, billiard and bowls, the game was played at Narmoutheos, in the Fayoum region, in a spacious room which appears to be the prototype of a modern-day bowling hall.

The room was part of a structure, perhaps a residential building, which dated from the Roman period, specifically between the second and third century A.D.

"We first discovered a room with a very well-built limestone floor. Then we noticed a lane and two stone balls," Edda Bresciani, an Egyptologist at Pisa University, told Discovery News.

Measuring about 13 feet long, the 7.9-inch-wide, 3.8-inch-deep lane featured a 4.7-inch square opening at its center.

Beneath the opening, Bresciani and colleagues from the Universities of Messina and Trieste, found a large terracotta vase filled with fine sand.

They also noticed that the balls had different diameters — one fitted exactly the square opening, the other could run smoothly along the lane.

According to Bresciani, the game was played by two players positioned at the two ends of the lane. One would throw the smaller ball, the other the bigger one.

"They would throw the balls at the same time. Most likely, the bigger ball was thrown along the lane to prevent the smaller ball from entering the hole at the center. When this happened, the smaller ball could be easily recovered from the sand-filled terracotta vase below," Bresciani said.

Thrown alternatively by each player, the smaller ball determined the winner of the game.

"Obviously, the winner was the player who was able to place the ball into the hole more times," Bresciani said.

Bresciani and colleagues at Pisa University have tested the game by building a similar lane.

"It works pretty well. It shows that both players must be very skillful and prompt," she said.

According to archaeologist Joyce Tyldesley, author of the book "Egyptian Games and Sports," the finding a proves once again that the ancient Egyptians enjoyed a wide range of sports and games.

"It sounds like a very interesting discovery. The Egyptians did play sports and games, although not team games as we play today. They also played a miniature form of marbles — rolling marbles between posts — which sounds relevant here," Tyldesley told Discovery News.

According to Bresciani, the game has no parallel in other civilizations.

"I looked into similar ancient games, including ancient Roman games, and could not find anything like this. It really looks like it was invented in Egypt," Bresciani said.

Via: Discovery Channel