THE LITHIC OLYMPIC GAMES

At STONEWORK SYMPOSIUM 2006 in Hood River, Oregon we had a picnic along the Columbia River and played bocce and petanque (the French version of bocce played with steel balls.) Later we had a competition to guess the weight of an empty beer keg (it was 31 pounds and Zach Gonzalez who guesses 32 was closest). This was such fun it was decided to have such games at future Symposia.

The next Symposium was on the Island of Mallorca, Spain. I had done some research into the origins of bocce and petanque and discovered that both games were originally played with stone balls(!) so I ordered some from China. Unfortunately they were delayed in customs and did not arrive in Mallorca until it was too late to use them there so they were shipped on to Barre Vermont where the next Symposium was to occur. In the course of the Dry Stone Workshop in the week preceding the Symposium a stone-walled bocce court was built and the first games of what we called LITHOBOLOS were played.

Lithobolos (litho-stone, bolos-ball) was a Greek word given to a war machine, a catapault that hurled stone balls, huge ones intended to wreck fortifications as well as smaller anti-personnel projectiles. The Romans adopted these weapons and they were used extensively in the Punic Wars waged against Carthage (264 BC to 146 BC.) History tells us that between battles the Roman soldiers used the smaller artillery balls in a game that they invented: a smaller object ball was thrown and players then threw other balls in an attempt to come closest to it.

It’s a good game for stonemasons to play. The standard lithobolos ball is 5 inches in diameter, made of granite, has a bushed texture and weighs about 5 pounds. If there are 2 players, each throws 3 balls; if 4 players, each throws 2. There will be balls available for sale in Ventura, but those interested can make their own. If you wish to purchase balls prior to the Symposium to practice with and improve your chances in the tournament, contact Paul Lindhard, 805-653-6380.

Other games will include Dry stone Walling (with a substantial cash prize), the always popular Wheelbarrow Steeplechase (photo below), the (stone)Shot-Put, Eye-Balling, Lever Action, Stone-Balancing and Stone-Stacking—fun for participants and for spectators.