click to see drawing of scene; © Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Wall relief; Pharaoh Thutmose III bats balls to his catchers before the goddess Hathor (c. 1460 BC). Copyright MMA-NY, all rights reserved.

Batting the Ball
by Peter A. Piccione
© 2003-2004. All rights reserved.

Batting the Ball (seker-hemat) was an Egyptian bat-and-ball game, played by the Egyptian pharaohs (with their priests as catchers). Significantly, this game had certain physical and thematic similarities to modern American baseball, and in certain ways, might be understood as an ancient precursor to baseball, softball and even stickball. Does that mean that the Egyptians invented American baseball? No, but their game certainly prefigured baseball. The Egyptians were the earliest people known to play any ball games, let alone bat-and-ball, specifically (c. 2400 BC). Very early in their history they applied cosmological associations to their bat-and-ball game similar to the cosmology that Americans apply to baseball (e.g., as a rite of spring and a renewal of life, a conduit for channeling national political loyalty, a source of heroic figures with whose achievements society could identify, etc.).

The lecture, "Pharaoh at the Bat: Egyptian Ball Games and American Baseball," by Peter A. Piccione, Ph.D., examines the history of the ancient Egyptian gaming-ritual called "Batting the Ball." It presents scenes on the walls of Egyptian temples depicting the play of the game and discusses the game's accoutrements and aspects of play. It recounts its probable origins as a recreational boys' game and its subsequent connections to Egyptian cosmology, religion, gods and goddesses, etc. The lecture compares the Egyptians' notions about their ball game to the historical American passion for baseball and how the legends and traditions Americans have created derive from a myth-making tradition similar to that of the Egyptians. It also notes the possibility of professional female ball players in Egypt long before the short-lived All-American Girls' Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), 1943-1954.

The lecture concludes with a rendition of a poem composed by the author, "Pharaoh at the Bat,"® a witty Egyptological pun on the American classic, "Casey at the Bat," as a tribute to both baseball and Egyptology and their common font of human inspiration.

For more information on "Batting the Ball, click here.

| Home Page | Research Projects |