One of the easiest ways to make new friends is to explore a shared hobby. Worldwide, social groups regularly meet up to engage in doing what they love the most. Whether bird watching, LARPing, or organizing an event for charity, there’s no shortage of hobbyist groups to join.
But life wasn’t always this way. Thousands of years ago, ancient humans were more concerned with survival than pursuing their interests. Before they could sit down to paint their cave, they had to scavenge for food, avoiding things like bear dens and dysentery along the way.
Even so, that doesn’t mean ancient humans didn’t make time for their passion projects. As civilization advanced, the bare basics of survival were easier to handle. In fact, some of the world’s most popular hobbies stretch back to these early societies, including Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia.
Think your interest is unique? It may actually originate in some of the world’s oldest hobbies that stretch back hundreds or thousands of years ago. Let’s take a closer look at some of these storied pastimes, as well as the cultures that helped make them popular.
Board & Table Games
Games that involve dice have been around for thousands of years. In fact, the first pieces were found in ancient Mesopotamia, stretching back to the year 3000 BC. Today, the emphasis on entertainment and gaming can be found across the world, such as through online casino platforms.
Today, they offer a range of exciting titles, from slots to blackjack to roulette. Even poker, which is one of the most well-known card games in the world, might have its first origin in As-Nas in Ancient Persia. As-Nas, a card game that involves bluffing and hand rankings, stemmed from an older game, Ganjifa, which emerged in the 12th century in India.
NFTs may be all the rage, but long before anyone conceived of the CryptoKitties platform, ancient humans naturally collected items that pleased them. In fact, some of the earliest collectors had a taste for antiques just like today. Back in the 6th century BC, the daughter of the Babylonian king Nabonidus spent her time collecting ancient artifacts.
Her collection became so extensive that she curated a room in the Babylonian Palace to show off her finds. This room is considered by many scholars to be the world’s first museum. Similarly, the first Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar (63 BC-14 AD) also spent his time collecting ancient gold coins and artifacts. Today, hobbyists continue this pursuit by searching out rare coins from Augustus’s rule.
Sports (and Sports Betting)
Similar to gaming, sports and sports betting are an ingrained part of recreation worldwide. FIFA estimates that football (or soccer) has around 3.5 billion fans around the globe, close to half the world’s population. While most examples of organized sports come from Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, where wrestling was preferred, the first archaeological evidence of sports comes from a cave painting in France that dates back over 15,000 years. Like Egypt and Mesopotamia, the game du jour was wrestling.
Similarly, sports betting has been linked to the earliest forms of athletic competition. In Ancient Rome, sports fans packed into large arenas to watch gladiator fights and chariot races. The latter has been associated with oddsmakers, as archaeologists have uncovered betting slips in certain race locations.
While it’s up for debate whether ancient humans headed to the spa for physical wellness or recreation, they certainly enjoyed their time. The term ‘spa’ originates in Spa, Belgium, where chalybeate springs were discovered in the 14th century. However, the tradition stretches back much further.
Ancient Romans were some of the earliest proprietors of the thermal bath spa, which they spread around Europe during their military campaigns. The emphasis was on soaking in mineral-rich waters. However, archaeologists and anthropologists point back to Ancient Egypt for the first spa treatments.
These included steam baths and mud wraps from the Dead Sea, which were used by women to appear more youthful. Even Cleopatra herself was rumored to use wraps to stay fresh-faced. Other washing treatments involved ash and clay, which were mixed into a paste with fresh-smelling ingredients to create a type of soap. Certain spa treatments also involved mixing vegetable oil with alkaline salts.