Darts Is English Theory Upside Down
Dateline April 1, 2001 Time 10.23 (British Standard Time)
News has just reached England of an amazing discovery made by a group of amateur archaeologists in the early hours of this morning.
Whilst working in an area believed to be either a Roman spoil heap or rubbish tip on the outskirts of Rome, members of the Langford Archaeology Group, from East Anglia, England, have excavated a body which is believed to be a Roman dart player.
The body, that of a man, is extremely well preserved and by his dress, mainly consisting of sackcloth and a pair of leather sandals, is assumed to be a Roman peasant. Amazingly, grasped in the peasant’s left hand was found a goblet bearing the inscription in Roman numerals ‘CXXC’ followed by the legend ‘Dartus Maximus’ and under that ‘Silas Geronicus’ and then the Latin phrase ‘Polo far lir’. It is assumed that the goblet was some form of trophy and that ‘Silas’ was the name of the unfortunate peasant.
However, what is of intense interest to darts historians is that the peasant was found to be holding in his right hand a set of three miniature arrows, possibly small pillums (a Roman throwing spear or javelin). These ‘arrows’ are made of soft wood with fairly long metal points, not unlike the length and metallic construction of a Roman brooch clasp. These ‘arrows’ are well preserved but no evidence of any flights could be found. The similarity between these small Roman arrows and the modern dart was immediately and plainly obvious.
Any doubts about the probable darting connection were suppressed when, upon moving Silas’s body, a small archery target was discovered beneath him. About 12 inches in diameter, the target was constructed of cork and features 20 segments with inlaid Roman numerals (I to XX, non-sequential) of tessera mosaic and a bulls eye.
Up until this morning all darts and weapons historians had been certain that darts was a derivative of archery dating back from Medieval times in England (the battles of Crecy, Agincourt, etc). The theory has always been that from thence ‘darts’ developed as an indoor pastime played in taverns and inns for centuries until the game was standardised in the 1920s. Until now there has been no evidence to suggest that the origins of the game lay with the Romans.
Professor Bertram Singleton-Pratt, leader of the Langford Archaeological Group, told a reporter, “This is a most fantastic discovery indeed. As soon as we are able to examine the body and dartefacts in more secure, safe and rigid laboratory conditions we should be able to ascertain exactly how old our Roman darter is and possibly how he ended up in the spoil heap.” (One theory, already postulated, is that he was under the influence of a surfeit of mead and fell into the spoil heap on his way back from a darts match.)
Professor Singleton-Pratt added, “This could mean that darts was played at the Forum. It could even mean that darts might have been featured in the early Roman games or even the Olympics! If so, then that would certainly be one in the eye for those Sports Council’s in Britain who continually refuse to recognise darts as a sport.”
The outcomes of the tests on Silas in the laboratory are expected by the end of this week and are eagerly awaited by all darts players.
Text © Patrick Chaplin 2007
Drawing (c) Chip. Used with permission