The history of sport probably extends as far back as the existence of people as purposive sportive and active beings. Sport has been a useful way for people to increase their mastery of nature and the environment. The history of sport can teach us a great deal about social changes and about the nature of sport itself. Sport seems to involve basic human skills being developed and exercised for their own sake, in parallel with being exercised for their usefulness. It also shows how society has changed its beliefs and therefore there are changes in the rules. Of course, as we go further back in history the dwindling evidence makes the theories of the origins and purposes of sport difficult to support. Nonetheless, its importance in human history is undeniable.
Sports that are at least two and a half thousand years old include hurling (similar to field hockey) in Ireland, harpastum (similar to rugby) in Rome, cuju (similar to association football) in China, and polo in Persia. The Mesoamerican ballgame originated over three thousand years ago.
There are artifacts and structures that suggest that the Chinese engaged in sporting activities as early as 2000 BC. Gymnastics appears to have been a popular sport in China’s ancient past. Monuments to the Pharaohs indicate that a number of sports, including wrestling, weightlifting, long jump, swimming, rowing, shooting, fishing and athletics, as well as various kinds of ball games, were well-developed and regulated several thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt. Other Egyptian sports included javelin throwing, high jump, and wrestling. Ancient Persian sports such as the traditional Iranian martial art of Zourkhaneh. Among other sports that originated in Persia are polo and jousting.