What games did people play in Central Asia? - horse races, wrestling, and archery
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Central Asian Games


Mongolian wrestling today

April 2017 - People in Central Asia played games that helped them get better at skills they would need in their lives. They needed to ride horses well, so they liked to race their horses or play games like polo on their horses, where you rode horses and tried to use long sticks to hit a ball into a goal (like field hockey on horses).

People in Central Asia also needed to be good fighters. They liked to wrestle to get better at hand to hand fighting. People wrestled especially during the festival of Naadam, in late July or early August. In Mongolian wrestling, you fought in any open grassy area. You won when you got your opponent to touch the ground with his upper body or elbow (or, in some versions, any part of his body except his feet).

Wrestlers
Wrestlers from Samarkand
(Uzbekistan, 600s AD)

People also held archery contests, shooting with a bow and arrow at targets. Both men and women competed in these games; one example is the story of Alpamysh and Barchin.

In Russia, in the western part of Central Asia, people also used snowshoes and wooden cross-country skis both to get around and for fun. People also played games in the snow like building snow forts and skating on the ice on wooden skates or skates made from animal bones.

Learn by Doing - Central Asian games
Try playing bicycle polo
An archery project
Central Asian board games

Bibliography and further reading:

Islamic games
More about bows and arrows
Central Asia home
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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