Archaeology as a science
and professor of sport, Dr. Labib Boutros, born in 1935 in Beirut
(Lebanon), was doctor in pedagogy of sports sciences of the Martin
Luther University of Halle (GDR). After pursuing competition sport
with success, he was swimming champion and recordman several times.
He was selected to take part in the 1969 Universiad. He devoted
himself to training, journalism and was the sports anchor of a major
Lebanese television station. He was a second prize winner at the
Mexico Olympic Games in 1968 competition open to all world journalists.
Polyglot, Labib Boutros spoke Arabic, French, German and English.
Dr. Boutros passed away in 1997.
of archaeology has had a long history, dealing with ancient people the
world around and with topics as diverse as the social cultures.
The word "archaeology" comes from the Greek: archaeos (ancient) and
"logos" (theory or science). Therefore, Archaeology means
the Science of ancient times, through discovering remains and traces
of the past Civilization.
archaeology is developing into a distinct discipline. Archaeologists
occupy at the present time an important responsibility in several departments,
such as art, history, classics, anthropology and other topics. This
branch of science has its own techniques for discovering and assembling
information and data.
As an academic
discipline, archaeology has a history of about 100 years. But, by the
end of the fourteenth century a few persons were practicing a form of
archaeology. The persistent motive of archaeology has been for a certain
period just to collect antiquities in general. But, for scientists and
professional scholars, archaeology is to discover means and facts of
social and cultural lives of the ancient societies. This could be through
buildings, inscriptions, reliefs, wall paintings, coins, tools, ceramics,
etc., excavated in the sands or under ancient constructions. Archaeologists,
in this work, must describe, classify and record the information discovered,
and study the data.1
History and archaeology
is based generally on the idea that there are ancient remains of human
activity to be studied and published to the aim of world history. In
this field, archaeology is going to develop a wide part of the science
because archaeology deals with man in the past, the historians study
the results of the excavations considered through the perspective of
time in order to enrich our knowledge.
It is obvious
that archaeology and history should have a very closed relation, and
a big interest is to be established between archaeologists and historians,
because the archaeologist also needs the historian to develop his information
and draw a certain philosophy of history. In this meaning, Glyn Daniel,
the editor of the journal "Antiquity" states: "We are
all historians, we are all studying the past of man. The past is the
goal of the historian whether he is text-aided or not".2
Archaeology began especially with an interest in the Greeks and Romans
and developed first in the 18th century. Classical archaeology has been
established on a scientific basis since the beginning of the 19th century,
especially with the works of:
Champollion (on Egypt, in 1808-25)
Schliemann (on Troy, in the 1870s)
Curtius (on Olympia, in 1875-81)
Evans (on Knossos, in 1900)
Sport historians and archaeology
field of archaeology, historians of any branch choose their topics and
focus their investigation on specific subjects. Sometimes, the results
of excavations gave to scholars the idea of following a particular subject
of history: sports history. Here, sports historians can draw out new
data and information and enrich the science of sports history with new
a sports historian is an investigator who has to work on particular
remains, with historical background in hand, already given by different
means. As sport was one of the highest interests of the ancient people,
its remains could be widely found in the fields of excavations.
we must acknowledge that a good part of information, now in sports history,
is largely based upon the work and contribution of archaeologists, who
have revealed to us the results of their research. It is evident that
the discovery of sports grounds (such as stadia, gymnasia and palaestrae),
equipment and others, in Olympia, Egypt and recently in Phoenicia, gave
wide information concerning the history of sport and physical education.
In particular, excavations in Amrit (Marathus) and Tyre gave me the
opportunity to set up the first information about the history of sport
many sports historians have had recourse to archaeology and provided
us with books on sports history, since the end of the last century.
Among the most important historians who worked in the light of archaeological
evidence, we have to quote Adolf Furtwangler (1853-1907), Julius Jüthner
(1866-1949)3, Norman Gardiner, Wilhelm Dorpfeld, Walter Hyde
and others, who published many books on sport history relying on archaeological
Archaeology, as a source of knowledge to sport history
do not exist, archaeology will be the most important source of information,
if not the last means of work.
In Greece: Excavations conducted in many sites, such as Olympia, Delphi, Epidorus
and Corinthus gave new data to sport history. Scholars like Bernard
de Monfoucond (in 1723), Richard Chandler (in 1766), Johann Winckelmann
(in 1767), suggested conducting excavations in Olympia, in order to
discover the cultural history of the country. The first excavation in
Olympia was carried out in 1823 by the French "Expedition Scientifique
de Moree". The work was completed by the German archaeologists
Ernst Curtius and Friedrich Adler, who conducted six campaigns between
1875 and 1881. Wilhelm Dörpfeld came after and conducted the work
in Olympia, between 1921 and 1923 and 1927 and 1929. Since 1937, the
excavations have been submitted to Emil Kunze. Important sports grounds
have been discovered over the years such as the Stadium, the Gymnasium
and the Palaestra.5 Since then, all scientific research on
Olympia and Greek sport has been based on monumental works like "Die
Ergebnisse", edited by Curtius and Adler, between 1887 and 1897.
Later on, Dörpfeld published his two volumes "Alt-Olympia" in 1935.
remains in Greece attest in general the classical texts on sports activity.
For example, Pausanias in his "Description of Greece" in the
second century A. D. reported that archaeological evidence was borne
out in Olympia as well as in the other sites. Thus, we can state that
archaeological evidence and historical document complement each other.
Illustrations, designs and wall paintings of sports performances were
drawn or engraved in tombs or temples of the Egyptian Pharaos. These
documents were discovered especially in Beni-Hassan, Sakkara, Tell el-Amarna,
Al-Karnak, Deir el-Bersheh, Deir el-Medineh and West Thebes.6
These sport motives of ancient Egypt have been gathered and published
in various books, the most complete of which is by Touny/Wenig.7
With these archaeological documents a wide chapter of the sport history
of this country has been revealed. If these documents had not been discovered
the sport history of Egypt would have remained in obscurity.
The role of archaeology in discovering the sport history of Phoenicia
is to give you a living example of the importance of the contribution
of archaeology to the development of the science of sport history, may
I bring to your attention my own experience.
ago, when I began my research in the field of sport history, I chose
to study the history of sport in Lebanon (previously called Phoenicia).
No work had been undertaken before on this subject. No previous studies,
no texts, no documents in hand. As you can imagine, my task was not
easy at all. Thus, I started first to examine the classical works. But,
since the documents on the Phoenicians were insufficient, I had recourse
to the archaeological sites of the country. There I inquired on the
localities and remains, in which the worship rite ceremonies had taken
place, taking into account the fact that sport used to accompany the
religious festivals in the traditions of the ancient world. In following
this way, I obtained valuable information for my subject, because the
excavations in two different sites, in Amrit and Tyre, gave me a lot
of data dealing with athletics.
years, I had the opportunity to study these athletic remains. My report
was published in my Diplomarbeit under the direction of Professor Dr.
Gerhard Lukas, Director of the Sektion Sportwissenschaft at the Martin-
Luther-Universitat (Halle-GDR). On this occasion, I wish to express
my best thanks to Prof. Lukas and his assistants. The title of my work
was "Die Anfänge des Libanesischen Sports, lhre Verbindung
mit dem Phöinizischen Kult und den Ausgrabungen in Tyr und Amrit".
beginning of Lebanese sport, its connection with the Phoenician cult
and the excavation in Tyre and Amrit.)
was enlarged, in 1974, and published in a book of 200 pages, in Arabic.
one of the considerable cities of northern Phoenicia, a neglected Stadium
was brought to my attention. This site was excavated in 1860 by the
French archaeologist Ernest Renan. But, ever since its athletic stadium
has remained in obscurity. The Stadium is adjacent to the city temple
and the distance between them is about 200 meters. Concerning this Stadium,
I wrote in my book "Phoenician Sports":
of the existence of Sport in Phoenicia precedent to the Greek time
is to be found in the Stadium of Amrit. This Stadium provides the
most certain proof of our time that the Phoenicians celebrated religious
sport festivals near their temples".
the ancient Metropolis of Phoenicia, the excavations provided valuable
athletic remains, resembling the sport constructions of Olympia. In
two adjacent places in Tyre the archaeological efforts brought to light:
- A Roman
- A Greek
- A Roman
palaestra (built under a Greek gymnasium).
a Roman bath (Thermae)
we can conclude, that without this archaeological evidence, information
about Sport in Phoenicia could not be brought up. However, considerable
data from the Phoenician stadium of Amrit leaves a strong impression.
That is to conclude that the tradition of organizing sport events linked
with worship rites was established first in Phoenicia. Afterwards it
was introduced to Greece through the Phoenicians who emigrated to Greece,
guided by Cadmus and his successors, beginning in the 16th century B.C.
(the) athletic remains, in Amrit and Tyre, I had the possibility to
discover some aspects of the history of sport in Phoenicia between around
1500 B.C. and 400 A.D. This means that archaeology allowed me to trace
a forgotten page of sport history in Phoenicia, and to develop its chapters
in the future.
is a distinct branch of science dealing closely with history, in order
to reveal the social and cultural lives of the ancient societies. This
field gave to many scholars the idea of following a specific subject
of history, sport history.
is a field of interest to sport historians, especially those who have
no texts in hand. This was the case, when I began to study the history
of sport in Phoenicia. We sport historians, have to have recourse to
archaeology, as we do not have more information given by texts or other
means. Moreover classical works concerning sports already published
and known, cannot give us further information.
the best procedure to be followed is an examination of the sites of
excavations, which provide abundant data and proper cultures of the
ancient people. In closing, I can say that sport history ought to be
well developed in the future, especially through archaeology. Therefore,
we have a great interest to work from now on, closely and deeply, with
our colleagues, the archaeologists.