Who Invented Bowling

The exact origin of bowling is a somewhat cloudy subject. The name of the person who invented bowling may never be definitively known, but there are two prevailing theories on where the game came from.

A team led by British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie discovered what he claims to be primitive bowling balls, pins and other materials in the grave of an Egyptian boy. If his claims are true, we can assume the Egyptians invented the game. The remains he discovered were placed at 3200 B.C., which would make the game over 5,000 years old.

Germany also stakes a claim to inventing the game. German historian, William Pehle, claims the game was invented in his country around 300 A.D. Many historians are in agreement with Pehle, saying that around that same time German monks introduced a game to churchgoers that seems to have evolved into the bowling we know today. People at that time were carrying clubs called kegels for protection. The monks used the kegels as clubs which were placed at one end of a runway (much like our bowling lanes) and rolled stones at the clubs (much like our bowling pins). The kegels represented the Heide, or heathen. If one knocked over the pins s/he would be cleansed of his/her sins. Bowlers are still called "keglers" in the U.S. and U.K.

Eventually the game came to be played outside the church. The stones became wooden balls and eventually the plastic and urethane of today. On an interesting side note, King Henry VIII allegedly bowled using cannon balls. The pins gradually took on the size and shape of those found in today's bowling alleys and became the standard tenpin that we play today.

Many countries have versions of the game that have each led in some way to today's version of bowling. The German, English, Dutch and French all still play games that are very similar to bowling. Immigrants from each country brought their games with them and eventually helped the game evolve into the game millions of people play.

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