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New evidence for ball games in Eurasia from ca. 3000-year-old Yanghai tombs in the Turfan depression of Northwest China


Wertmann, Patrick; Chen, Xinyong; Li, Xiao; Xu, Dongliang; Tarasov, Pavel E; Wagner, Mayke (2020). New evidence for ball games in Eurasia from ca. 3000-year-old Yanghai tombs in the Turfan depression of Northwest China. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 34:102576.

Abstract

Three leather balls discovered in tombs IM157, IM209, and IM214 of the prehistoric Yanghai cemetery (42°48′N, 89°39′E) located about 43 km southeast of the modern city of Turfan, were AMS radiocarbon dated to the time interval between 1189 and 911 BCE (95% probability), and thus predate other currently known antique balls and images of ball games in Eurasia by several centuries. Our study approves the antiquity of the Yanghai balls, but the available data is not enough to answer the question how these balls were played. Although, their use in team and goal sport is likely, a suggested game similar to hockey, golf or polo cannot be confirmed, because no appropriate sticks were found in direct association with the balls. The affiliation of curved wooden sticks in Yanghai with ball games suggested earlier remains hypothetical, as all found sticks are noticeably younger in age, and other forms of use should be verified by future studies. Two of the three balls were found in the burials of the possible horse riders. Given that ball games from ancient times were considered an excellent form of physical exercise and military training, we suggest that balls (and ball games) appeared in the region at the same time as horseback riding and mounted warfare began to spread in the eastern part of Central Asia.

Abstract

Three leather balls discovered in tombs IM157, IM209, and IM214 of the prehistoric Yanghai cemetery (42°48′N, 89°39′E) located about 43 km southeast of the modern city of Turfan, were AMS radiocarbon dated to the time interval between 1189 and 911 BCE (95% probability), and thus predate other currently known antique balls and images of ball games in Eurasia by several centuries. Our study approves the antiquity of the Yanghai balls, but the available data is not enough to answer the question how these balls were played. Although, their use in team and goal sport is likely, a suggested game similar to hockey, golf or polo cannot be confirmed, because no appropriate sticks were found in direct association with the balls. The affiliation of curved wooden sticks in Yanghai with ball games suggested earlier remains hypothetical, as all found sticks are noticeably younger in age, and other forms of use should be verified by future studies. Two of the three balls were found in the burials of the possible horse riders. Given that ball games from ancient times were considered an excellent form of physical exercise and military training, we suggest that balls (and ball games) appeared in the region at the same time as horseback riding and mounted warfare began to spread in the eastern part of Central Asia.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:180 Ancient, medieval & eastern philosophy
290 Other religions
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Archeology (arts and humanities)
Social Sciences & Humanities > Archeology
Language:English
Date:1 December 2020
Deposited On:25 Nov 2020 17:51
Last Modified:27 Jan 2022 03:19
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:2352-409X
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2020.102576

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