Ancient Games

Ancient Games: A History of Sports and Gaming
Iris Volant and Avalon Nuovo
Flying Eye Books

Here’s an interesting book that was probably intended to act as a prelude to the Tokyo Olympics due to open in July.

Most of us were eagerly anticipating this summer’s Olympic Games but I doubt if so many are aware that competitive sport goes way back as far as 3000 BCE or even earlier in Sumer (now Southern Iraq) when towns held boxing and wrestling competitions. The evidence for this is found on ancient Sumerian clay vases and tablets …

Ancient sports in other parts of the world too were largely linked to warrior skills for instance moving to Ancient Egypt (3100 – 30 BCE) boxing and wrestling, along with archery and spear throwing and weightlifting, were practised; so too were swimming races and rowing contests.

Special places for spectator sports go back more than 3500 years. Aztecs played a ball game in stone courtyards specially built for the purpose; it was a deadly serious game as the losing side may have been beheaded. Horrendous thought!

Moving forward in time to Ancient Greece 776BCE. This was the year in which the first known Olympic Games took place at Olympia. Interestingly the very first Olympic winner on record was Koroibos, a cook who won a running race called the ‘stadion’ and from that comes the word ‘stadium’. A spread devoted to these Olympics includes information on the duration, events, the consequences of cheating, if discovered and the rewards for winning an event.

Another spread features the legendary Milo of Croton a young wrestling super star.

This is just a taste of what’s in this fascinating book that also includes information on the Ancient Roman Games, the Asian Games, the European Games from Medieval times on, Viking Games and how the Modern Olympics evolved from 1896 to now.

A spread showcases some truly inspiring Olympic Champions who overcame enormous odds and achieved the seemingly impossible.

The book concludes with a timeline showing significant dates.

Avalon Nuovo’s powerful images of the athletes, warriors and participants rendered in a colour palette predominated by shades of ochre, and from a variety of perspectives, serve to take us as spectators into the ancient world of games and follow its unfolding history as described in Iris Volant’s narrative.

Under the Canopy

Under the Canopy
Iris Volant and Cynthia Alonso
Flying Eye Books

Often called the lungs of the world, as the largest plants on our planet, trees are vitally important to us all. Essential for life, they are the longest living species on earth and so link past, present and future.
Many of them are also incredibly beautiful whether covered in new leaves or stripped bare of all foliage.

Herein, fact and fiction are woven together in a celebration of trees of various kinds from all over the world.

We learn how, according to the Greek myth, Athena, the goddess of wisdom’s gift of an olive tree was chosen by the people over Poseidon’s salt spring and Athens was named in her honour.

Another tree featured in the book that has an associated legend is the Willow.
In order to boost sales of the blue and white willow pattern chinaware once popular in England a number of stories were invented based on that pattern.

One such tells of young forbidden love and of the ultimate transformation of the ill-fated lovers into doves.

From tropical regions including Africa and Australia is the acacia. The famous whistling acacias of Zimbabwe were so called because their long pointed thorns make a whistling sound when the wind blows.
A popular food of giraffes, these trees, in response to grazing, pump their leaves with organic chemicals which force the animals to stop feeding and in addition the tree under attack can communicate to other nearby acacias to do likewise.

Legend has it that the English mathematician and phycisist, Isaac Newton conceived his theory of gravity when he saw an apple falling while thinking about the forces of nature.

Elegantly produced, this diverting collection, which features over twenty tree species is one to dip into, to enjoy and savour Cynthia Alonso’s stylish artwork with its textures, patterns and standout splashes of luminous green.