The origins of ice-skating have been traced by scientists to the frozen lakes of Finland about 5,000 years ago, when people used skates made from animal bone.
Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University have calculated that skating on the primitive blades would have reduced the energy cost of travelling by 10 per cent, suggesting that it emerged as a practical method of transport and not as recreation.
Southern Finland has been identified as the most likely home of skating through an analysis of the shape and distribution of lakes in central and northern Europe, which shows that the early Finns would have had most to gain from travelling on the ice.
Archaeological evidence indicates that skating began about 3,000 BC, as skates made from bone dating to this time have been discovered in Scandi-navia and other parts of northern Europe. The reason why people started skating and where they did it has always been a mystery. The new research, led by Federico Formenti and Alberto Minetti of the university’s Institute of Biophysical and Clinical Research into Human Movement, has offered an answer to both questions.
“In Central and Northern Europe 5,000 years ago, people struggled to survive the severe winter conditions and it seems unlikely that ice skating developed as a hobby,” Dr Formenti said. “As happened later for skis and bicycles, I am convinced that we first made ice skates to limit the energy required for our daily journeys.”