Writers of the 1998 comedy film "The Big Lebowski," in which pivotal scenes take place in a bowling alley, might have had to find a different motif if it hadn't been for the ancient Egyptians. In Narmoutheos, a settlement 56 miles (90 kilometers) south of Cairo that dates back to the Roman occupation period in the second and third centuries A.D., archaeologists have discovered a room containing a set of lanes and a collection of balls of various sizes. Measuring about 13 feet (3.9 meters) long, the 7.9-inch-wide (20-centimeter), 3.8-inch-deep (9.6-centimeter) lane featured a 4.7-inch (11.9-centimeter) square opening at its center.
Unlike modern bowling, in which bowlers strive to knock down pins at the end of the alley, Egyptian bowlers aimed for the hole in the middle. Competitors stood at opposite ends of the lane and attempted to roll balls of different sizes into the center hole and in the process also knock their opponent's ball off course [source: Lorenzi].