The History of Freediving
Freediving is considered a relatively young sport and recreational activity compared to its brothers like scuba diving and underwater swimming. But if we study the history of diving underwater on one breath, it turns out that the roots of freediving go much deeper in history than it may seem.
The First Evidence of Freediving
We can trace the first evidence of a human diving underwater back to 6000 BC. Archaeologists confirm that the mummies of Chinchorian ancient peoples who lived at that time in what is present-day northern Chile and southern Peru have exostosis deformations of the skull that prove that these people were avid freedivers. Exostosis is a specific deformation of the bones in the ear canals when the bones grow across the ear canal opening to protect the eardrums from exposure to water. Exostosis can be commonly met between professional surfers, divers and kayakers who are also highly exposed to water. So Chinchorians were actively hunting for seashells and other food underwater.
The fossils found on the coast of the Baltic Sea dated back to 7,000 to 10,000 years ago also include seashells, which means that those ancient tribes were also diving for clams for sustenance.
Freediving in Ancient Greece
In Ancient Greece, freediving was a means not only for getting food. Plato and Homer mentioned that Greeks used sea sponges for bathing. The centre for sponge production was the island of Kalymnos, where greek divers used big stones called skandalopetra to quickly submerge themselves underwater for sponge collecting. The stones weighed as much as 15 kilograms and allowed the diver to go as deep as 30 meters.
Warfare and Salvage Freediving in the Mediterranean
Extensive maritime trade and frequent wars in the Mediterranean gave several more purposes to diving deep underwater. Divers were hired to salvage goods from the shipwrecks and to fight against the enemy at sea.
Thucydides, the famous Athenian general and historian, recounts that divers were used to get past enemy blockades, to bring messages and to scout for underwater barricades against warships during the Peloponnesian War.
In 332 BC during the Siege of Tyre, divers serving King Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire cut the anchor cables of Alexander the Great’s attacking ships that used battering rams against the city defensive structures.
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