The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame has replicas of artifacts for a game similar to bowling which were found in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian youth who died approximately 5,200 BC. Ancient Polynesians rolled stones at objects from a distance of 60 feet (18.29 meters) - the same distance as from foul line to headpin.
During the 3d and 4th centuries, bowling was a religious ceremony for determining absence of sin. German parishioners had to roll or throw an object at a pin or kegel (derivation of the word kegler for bowler) to avoid performing an act of penance.
The earliest known legislation against bowling dates to 14th Century England. The sport had become so popular that people were neglecting the archery practice necessary for national defense during the 100 Year War (a misnomer, since it actually lasted from 1337 to 1453). Both King Edward III who reigned from 1327-1377 and King Richard II (1377-1399) banned the game. From Europe to America, bowling has been banned throughout the world for the 'evil it leashes on society.'
A life size diorama at The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame portrays Martin Luther bowling on the single lane at the side of his home. A brochure from the Museum states that Luther, an avid bowler, 'once preached a sermon which, if put into bowling vernacular, proclaimed we all strive for perfection in life. But if we roll a gutterball, all is not lost.'
Dutch Colonists brought bowling to America in the 17th century. The game consisted of nine pins set in a triangle. It was regularly played in an area of New York City still known as 'Bowling Green'.
In 1841, Connecticut banned 'bowling at the game of ninepins' because of widespread gambling. Other states followed suit. It is popularly believed that today's game of tenpins was devised to circumvent the laws against the game of ninepins. An outdoor game for most of its history, indoor bowling became popular in the mid-nineteenth century after the introduction of indoor lanes in New York in 1840.
What's your 'Bowling Game' worth? Here are some recently sold items (USA):