Would you like to look at some decades-old pictures of champion curling teams? Of course you would.
The brilliant thing about these pictures, for me, is how transparent it is that the brooms are brooms. Look at them! That’s what they are. They’re brooms. They’re certainly not sporting equipment, even if that’s what they’re used for. It makes it so clear that whoever invented curling did so because of what they had to hand: brooms, of course, and ice, and some stones.
The oldest known curling stone seems to be the Scottish “Stirling Stone”, which might date from 1511; and Scotland itself lays claim to having invented the game. Which causes some problems for them, because there’s no real evidence, and there’s Dutch paintings by Bruegel of curling players from not that long afterwards – maybe some form of the game was invented there independently, or perhaps it even come from there in the first place?
But no, it’s okay: Dutch curling stones don’t start turning up till much later, and as curling historian Robert Welsh noted in 1985:
“The reasonable answer is that Brueghel’s game on the ice was played with frozen clods of earth which disintegrated when the thaw came — as the claims for overseas origin now disintegrate before our eyes. For a game played on ice with clods of earth cannot reasonably be called curling.”
That’s them told.