What Kinds of Sports Did People Play in Ancient Mesopotamia?

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Common sports people played in ancient Mesopotamia include hunting, boxing, wrestling and polo. Games and sports were held on holidays and festival days to entertain the masses. Backgammon, the most popular board game, was played on the ground with rocks and pebbles.

Lion hunting was done as a spectator sport. When lions were released from their wooden cages, dogs and beaters attacked the lion. The beaters beat the lions with sticks while pushing them in the king’s direction. The king would then kill the weakened lion with a spear or bow. Once the lion died, a religious ceremony took place.

Wrestling is the most commonly depicted sport in artwork from Mesopotamia according to archaeological evidence. Typically, wrestlers were completely naked, except for a belt. The function of this belt is not clearly known, but is thought to have been used to grip the other wrestler or possibly as an ancient athletic support apparatus.

Boxers wore the same thing as wrestlers did along with binding on their wrists. This binding had the same function as modern taping does: to strengthen the joints. Some ancient artwork also depicts boxers wearing skirts.

Polo was also played by the ancient Mesopotamians. However, rather than using horses, players sat on each other’s shoulders.