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Ethnography can help reconstruct some games, since many of them are still played nowadays (Watson, pp. Despite their popularity, the names and the rules of ancient games remain unknown. The form of the wooden board and the order of the individual spaces or fields follow the earlier examples from the royal cemetery at Ur (Woolley, 1934, pp. On the board found at Šahr-e Suḵta the fields are fashioned by the coils of a snake, carved in relief (FIGURE 1). It is generally assumed that the four squares on each side of the board served as entry fields, where the two players had to enter their counters. They have the shape of a brick with 3 x 12 perforated fields made as quadrangles (FIGURE 4). A slab from Susa bears the pattern of 3 x 10 squares and has three cavities on the side, which were probably meant for counters (Mecquenem, 1943, p. Sophie Erdös suggested that the anthropomorphic shape of the 58-hole boards from Susa refers to a cult of rebirth (Erdös, 1986, p. The player had to move the peg along the board/body to ensure the revival. Several examples including two bone knucklebones with one hole in the broad sides and one piece made of bronze and dating to the 12th century BCE come from Susa (Mecquenem, 1943, p. Children also used knucklebones for a number of games of skill that are played until now. 11), whereas the large faces, that is the rounded one (called “belly” by Aristotle) and the one with the deepening in the middle (called “back” by Aristotle), count 2 or 0 and 1 point respectively, thus clearly attributing the higher scores to the faces the knucklebone comes to lie on less frequently. e) Cubic dice made of bone, stone, or clay have been in use since the 3rd millennium BCE with different systems of distributing the points.
Today’s expressions derive most often from a description of the board, as it is the case with “the game of 20 squares” or “the game of 58 holes,” both of which will be discussed further on. In December 2004, the finding of another board of similar design together with two cubic dice was reported on the Internet (“World’s Oldest Backgammon Discovered in Burnt City”). This assumption is now strongly corroborated by the zoomorphic boards from Jiroft. The quadrangles of row 4 and row 9 are filled with dots. The god Inshushinak, who received a few boards as gifts, had, among other functions, precisely that of delivering the last judgment of the deceased. A terracotta board from Susa (12.3 x 11 cm) exhibited in the Louvre (Sb 20908) shows a square crossed by one vertical line, one horizontal line, and two diagonal lines (FIGURE 12). d) Knucklebones of sheep (and possibly goat) and cattle, but also artificially made from bronze seem to have been commonly used as random generators (see Muscarella, 1974, p. The site of Nuš-e Jān, located about 60 km south of Hamadan, has produced a number of interesting knucklebones from cattle (Curtis, 1984, p. A similar numbering has been observed on a knucklebone from Geoy Tepe near Urmia in western Azerbaijan, dating from the pre-Islamic Iron Age period: it has one hole in the “back” (as the one from Nuš-e Jān) and two holes in the “ear” (Burton Brown, 1951, p. One of the earliest examples seems to be the dice from the settlement Tepe Gawra located near Mosul in northwestern Iraq (Mecquenem, 1943, p. At Susa, several numberings have been attested (Mecquenem, 1943, p. 40): a) blank-small circle-four identical faces (one side blank, one with a small circle, and the other four with an identical ornament different from the two mentioned sides; no.
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The end of a “tail” with a cross is visible on the reverse side of a 58-hole game from the “Dépôt du Temple d’Inshushinak”—a votive deposit buried near the sanctuary of the god Inshushinak, the city god of Susa—which dates to about 1300-1200 BCE (Mecquenem, 1905, fig. In Egypt, games of 20 squares can often be found on the reverse side of boxes for playing (the game of 30 squares). They are moved according to the throw of two knucklebones, and special results are needed to enter each of the birds-counters into the game. The fact that this type of board existed simultaneously with the game of 20 squares suggests that the backgammon type of board derives neither from that game nor from the much later Egyptian combination boards for “senet” and “20 squares” with their three rows of 12 squares. If it is a game board, this is one of the earliest examples in the Near East, with other Levantine specimens known from the 7th millennium BCE (Rollefson, 1992). Slabs with 3 x 7 squares have been discovered at Bābā Jān Tepe in northeastern Luristan (Goff, 1976, p. VIIIa)—the original number of squares could well have been 30—and Susa (Mecquenem, 1943, p. Two of them are reported from the end of the Elamite period, 8th-7th century BCE (Mecquenem, 1943, pp. The same holds true for the board of Nine Men’s Morris, which was found in a room of the upper fort at Besṭām in western Azerbaijan (Kleiss, 1979, p.
Another fragment from Susa without archeological context preserves only the last six fields of the central row with two marked fields. Thus the counters are of five different values, and it seems that such a distinction, which later was to characterize the game of chess, has been introduced here for the first time (Schädler, 1999). A second board of the same type, but more precisely cut, is preserved at the Swiss Museum of Games (Musée Suisse du Jeu) in La Tour-de-Peilz. The backgammon family of games followed a trajectory of its own, with its apparent origins in ancient Persia around 2000 BCE. A gypsum slab with up to thirteen holes approximately 1 cm deep and 1 cm in diameter has been found at the Neolithic site Čoḡā Safid in Ḵuzestān (Hole, 1977, p. Game sets are rarely found complete, which raises issues of identification: boards can be mistaken for a kind of abacus and vice-versa.
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However, when we meet people online there is an unwritten rule that you can’t just see them immediately.He believes sacrifice and compromise is the bedrock of any healthy relationship. BOARD GAMES IN PRE-ISLAMIC PERSIA In contrast to the extensive literature describing the role of ancient Persia in the transmission of the games of chess and backgammon, our knowledge of other board games remains scanty. In the iconography of the items from Jiroft, the birds of prey, the scorpions, and the snakes frequently appear in association with each other, but they remain decidedly distinct from such irenic motifs as bulls, antelopes, and water streams. The marks on this board must be compared to those on a fragmentary board with 3 x 5 squares found in the “Dépôt du Temple d’Inshushinak”(Mecquenem, 1905, p. Some of these posts (B-F/B'-F' and C-D/C'-D') are linked by a line which permits a player to advance his piece or, on the contrary, obliges him to retreat. 345-351; FIGURE 9), northwestern Iran (British Museum, Reg. 1991.0720.1), and Lorestān (Luristan; see Amiet, 1976, p. Others, fashioned out of ivory or metal, have probably been ignored or erroneously catalogued as pins, like a peg with a monkey figurine associated to the fragmentary games in the “Dépôt du Temple d’Inshushinak” (Dunn-Vaturi, 2000; FIGURE 11). While most of these boards have the usual number of twenty fields, some boards have a central track of only eight fields (double-headed bird and scorpion-man), thus reducing the track for each player’s movements to twelve fields. A game of 58 holes appears on the other side of the board, like seen previously on another example. This game refers to two symmetrical circuits of twenty-nine perforations, each one to be completed by a player, thus making the total of fifty-eight holes on the board (FIGURE 7). These boards have two rows of four fields (located within the wings of the bird, the pincers of the scorpion, and the arms of the scorpion-man) and a central row of fields running through the body and tail. 5), and therefore its identification as a game of 20 squares is questionable.