Archaeologists from the National University of Nostralia have presented ground-breaking research on a newly discovered Grecian Urn, which they say is the earliest known depiction of the ancient Olympic sport of luge launching, known today as luge.
The figures on the urn, depicted in the traditional black-on-red style character of the mid to late Archaic period, date the object to between 620 and 480 BC.
In the scene depicted on the urn, one figure on a sled is pushed by two others.
The rider appears to be leaning forward, post-expectoration.
A protuberant blob of red glaze in front of the sleigh is surrounded by smaller splatters, which, the researchers say, indicates stray spittle, which together with the larger blob clearly represent a mucoid mass recently emitted by the competitor.
Dr. Hart Lee Hawking, Chair of the University of Nostralia's Mucal Studies Division, and the lead author of the study, published yesterday in Nature, described the image at a press conference in Perth.
"This image is of the utmost historical importance, as it confirms a widely supported but hitherto unproven theory, popularly known as the Sled Boost Hypothesis," Hawking said in his prepared remarks.
"For many years, historians were divided over the question of how, when, and why sleds were first introduced into the luge event. This important new specimen provides powerful evidence in support of the theory that sleds were introduced into expectoration competitions in order to add velocity and momentum to the expectorated matter."
"Clearly, hawked mucus can be expected to travel farther when emitted from a moving object than from a stationary source. Previous archaeological evidence, dating to as much as two hundred years prior to this new discovery, has depicted athletes hawking phlegm from a running start. But until now, no evidence had yet surfaced linking loogie hawking specifically to sleds."
Today the luge event has evolved significantly to focus solely on speed. Few people even remember its origins in competitive expectoration.
Yet to Greek scholars, the link has always been self-evident. Among other evidence, its origins are preserved in the name of the event itself, which has remained virtually unchanged since its earliest days.
Scholars agree that the word "luge," despite its current pronunciation based on modern French, was pronounced by ancient Greeks with two syllables and a hard g.
Indeed, the modern English word "loogie" is a direct derivation of the Greek word "luge," with virtually no change in pronunciation, or in meaning, from its three thousand year old cognate.
"We now can say with virtual certainty that the Olympic event of luge, or rather, loogie, began as an expectoration competition, and evolved into a sledding event for the purposes of further accelerating the launched loogie," concluded Dr. Hawking.
To prove their point, the research team performed a series of demonstrations for the television cameras.
First, Dr. Hawking and his research associate, Dr. Salivus Bouger, competed to see who could spit the farthest from a stationary start. Hawking bested Bouger by 3.2 meters to 2.8 meters.
Next, the scientists demonstrated competitive loogie-hawking from a running start. The added velocity increased their top scores to 4.1 meters and 3.6 meters, respectively, with Hawking maintaining his lead over Bouger.
In the next round, however, Bouger mounted a luge sled, from which he expectorated while being pushed by two assistants, while Hawking continued to compete from a running start.
The added momentum provided by the sled vaulted Bouger to victory, with a winning launch of nearly 8 meters, twice the distance reached by Hawking. The assembled audience burst into enthusiastic applause, as several informal loogie-hawking competitions erupted in the auditorium aisles.
Having settled one long-running debate, the team announced that they now plan to turn their attention to clarifying the origins of another Olympic event with ancient origins, the bobsled.
"Many historians maintain that the word bobsled was originally pronounced 'gob-sled,'" Dr. Hawking reported.
"We are confident that further archaeological excavations will not only resolve this question, but perhaps even shed light on the origins of the popular sport known today as 'hockey.'"