NEW YORK - On Tuesday, Columbia University hosted the presentation of an ancient wrestling artifact that dates back to 100 or 200 A.D.
The presentation drew the interest of wrestling legends and historians, who gathered in the Casa Italiana building on Amersterdam Avenue for the event. Those in attendance included Olympic champions Dan Gable, Bruce Baumgartner and John Smith and Lee Roy Smith, the executive director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Okla. Smith was presented with a reproduction of the papayrus for display in the Hall of Fame. The original document will stay in Columbia's Butler Library in the rare books/artifacts collection.
The artifact is an eight-inch patch of papyrus features step-by-step instructions on wrestling techniques and it is believed to be the oldest sporting instructional document in the world.
"This is the only surviving coaching manual that relates to the sport that was used in the ancient Olympic games," said Hall of Fame historian Don Sayenga. "This is very clearly what's left of three pages of a coaches' manual."
Sayenga said that a scholarly analysis of the handwriting indicates that it was a commercial document that was made for sale. The handwriting is in a form of Greek called Koine, the language that was very common at that time and the language of the New Testament.
According to the Hall of Fame, the document was found in the late 1800s in the southwest region of Cairo, Egypt, by graduate students from Oxford University who were actually searching for early Christian artifacts. It was shipped with other artifacts to Columbia in 1907. It is fitting that Columbia University, the school with the oldest college wrestling program in the United States, is and remains the home of this ancient treasure.