hist-games: Freq. Asked Questions -- Part II

Jeff Singman jsingman at umich.edu
Tue Oct 21 11:21:40 PDT 1997

> No, I don't have any 9-pin/ball references pre-1500 off-hand.  I was
> responding to the (perceived by me) implication that nine-pin bowling was
> derived from Kailes, when I think that they are likely parallel games
> (neither derived from the other).
This is where the presence or absence of pre-1500 examples of Skittles
comes into play. If there is none, then the fact that Kailes is so well
attested in the Middle Ages suggests that it is effectively the
progenitor of Skittles--which would be consistent with the general
refinement of these games during this period (again, remembering that the
two games coexisted during at least the 16th and early 17th centuries).

> This discussion also points out a problem area -- I recall at least one
> example (Strutt?  I'll try to check) where two players were rolling bowls
> (balls) at a single pin.  Now with multiple pins we can be reasonably
> certain that the objective was to knock them over.  With multiple balls
> aiming at a single smaller ball it is fairly clear that the objective is
> proximity.  But when two players have one ball each and are rolling at a
> single pin it is harder to say -- the objective could equally well have
> been proximity, rather than knockdown.  Or it might even have been both: a
> reasonable game could be constructed where the winner is the one closest
> to the pin, and knocking down the pin constitutes an instant win. 
These are certainly possible theories, but on the principle of Ockham's
razor I would favour assuming that the games in the illustrations
correspond to games attested in other sources, unless there are reasons to
suppose otherwise: two balls and one pin suggest essentially the same
dynamic as Bowls.

> > [....]  By the late 16c at least, Bowls often, perhaps normally,
> > involved asymmetrically weighted balls.
> ... in England.  In the Mediterranean area modern bocce (casting balls
> toward a smaller target ball) uses symmetrically weighted balls, and seems
> to have used such since time immemorial.
The balls are also symmetrical in Petanque (a French version). I don't
actually know about modern English Bowls.

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