Athletic contests in running, walking, jumping and throwing are among the oldest of all sports and their roots are prehistoric.

Athletics events were depicted in the Ancient Egyptian tombs in Saqqara, with illustrations of running at the Heb Sed festival and high jumping appearing in tombs from as early as of 2250 BC.

The Tailteann Games were an ancient Celtic festival in Ireland, founded around 1800 BCE, and the thirty-day meeting included running and stone-throwing among its sporting events.

The original and only event at the first Olympics in 776 BCE was a stadium-length running event known as the stadion. This later expanded to include throwing and jumping events within the ancient pentathlon. Athletics competitions also took place at other Panhellenic Games, which were founded later around 500 BCE.

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