Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sports & Games - Boules in 1802 France

Five elderly men playing at boules; behind two dogs and an elegant lady. c.1802 in Paris

Boules is a term for a wide range of games in which the objective is to throw or roll heavy (often metal) balls (called boules in France, and bocce in Italy) as close as possible to a small target ball. Boules-type games are traditional and popular in France, Italy, Malta and Croatia, and some former French colonies. Boules games are often played in open spaces (town squares and parks) in villages and towns. Dedicated playing areas for boules-type games are typically large, level, rectangular courts made of flattened earth, gravel, or crushed stone, enclosed in wooden rails or back boards.
In the south of France, the word boules is also often used as a synonym for pétanque.

There is a wide variation in the size and materials of the balls used in boules-type games. Originally, in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the balls were probably made of stone. Gallic tribes, which were introduced to boules by the Romans, used wooden boules. In the 1800s in France, boules were typically made of a very hard wood, boxwood root. In the mid-1800s techniques were developed for the mass production of iron nails. Following this technological improvement, boxwood balls studded with nails (boules cloutées) were introduced in an effort to improve the durability of the balls. This eventually lead to the development of balls that were completely covered in nails, creating a ball that appeared almost to be made of metal. By the 1920s, the growing popularity of boules in France created a demand that could not be satisfied using the available supplies of natural boxwood root, which were beginning to disappear. Paul Courtieu and Vincent Miles had the idea of manufacturing a ball made entirely of metal. Avoiding steel-based alloys (which were too hard and rust-prone) they developed an alloy based on aluminum and bronze, and (in 1923) patented a metal ball made of two welded-together hemispheres. A year later, in 1924, they filed a patent for a ball that was cast in a single piece -- La Boule intégrale. Other companies began manufacturing metal balls in a variety of metals and metal alloys, including bronze. The wooden balls used in bocce tend to be bigger than the smaller (but denser) metal balls used in pétanque.

Types of boules games include:
Bocce is the ancestral sport of most boules games. It is a rolling game using wooden balls and a run-up throwing technique.
Boules, otherwise known as Pétanque, is perhaps the sport that is closest to the hearts of the French [3]
Bocce volo is a throwing game using metal balls and a rather complicated run-up.
Boccia is a form of bocce adapted for players who are confined to wheel chairs.
Bolas criollas is a bocce-like game played in Venezuela
Bowls or "lawn bowls" is a British game similar to bocce
Jeu provençal or boule lyonnaise, similar to bocce volo
Pétanque originally evolved from jeu provençal as an adaptation for a player with a disability affecting the legs. However, it quickly became popular among able-bodied players. It is a throwing game using metal balls, but there is no run-up.P layers' feet must remain firmly on the ground.
Punto, raffa, volo (note that this is a single name consisting of three comma-separated words) is a type of bocce