hist-games: FW: Senet

u.schaedler at museedujeu.com u.schaedler at museedujeu.com
Mon Oct 31 00:54:26 PST 2005

concerning references to ancient board games, one should be very very

Yes there are boards with holes in it which have been found in various
neolithic sites, but nobody proved that these were used for board games.
It is also rather unlikely, since for inventing a board game man must have
the capability of abstract symbolic thinking and a notion of mathematics,
which probably developed only at about the same period when writing was
invented (around 3000 BC).

The earliest definite mancala boards I know are those from Abu Sha'ar (a
late Roman fortress dating to the 4th century AD): see the recent article
by Sidebotham and Mulvin in "Antiquity".

The so-called backgammon board described in laputanlogic (and other web
sites)is nothing else than a board for the game of 20 squares, which is
known from Ur (about 2500 BC). A backgammon-type board (i.e. a board
similar to Roman "XII scripta" or "Alea" boards has recently been
discovered among the finds from Jiroft (about 2000 BC).

The oldest 9-men's morris boards I know of do not predate the Roman era.
The famous game board designs on the roofs of Egyptian temples at Kurna
for example are dated by Egyptologists to Islamic times (7th cent. AD at
the earliest).

The sources concerning the age of Go are extremely difficult to interprete
and often unreliable.

In short: one should be extremely careful with "information" on the
internet, which is very often third hand. The best thing to do is to check
the scientific, serious literature in the nearest university library...

Swiss Museum of Games

> I think you would be mistaken to call Senet "the oldest board game".
> There is no way to be sure of it, but many scholars think that that
> title should be held by Mancala (or other similar ancient "harvest
> bowl" games).  Many "boards" have been found at sites, engraved into
> stone. Some of these sites are from 5,000-7,000 years ago, much
> earlier than the Senet boards found in Egyptian tombs.  There is even
> one prehistoric cave site, with mancala-like arrangement of hollowed
> out dents (I leave you to decide if we can prove that this was for a
> board game). Go is also documented almost as far back as Senet, with
> hints that it is even older. Also, Backgammon and 9 Man morris have
> been found in extremely old locations, and might also be earlier than
> Senet.  Recently a extremely old Backgammon games was found in India,
> complete with dice, that would predate the Egyptian find.
> We can say the "older surviving examples of board to play games" are
> the wooden Senet boards found in anceint tombs. It should be
> mentioned that when the boards were originally found, they were not
> sure what they were for, until a picture of some eEgyptian queen was
> found drawn on the walls of a tomb, showing her playing the game.  I
> would like to mention that we really have no idea how Senet was
> played. There are no rules recorded, nor is there a modern equivalent
> of the game.  Mancala, Backgammon, Chess and other games all have
> ancient forms that evolved into the games played now.  This is not
> true with Senet.
> I would refer you to http://nabataea.net/games3.html as a good site
> with example of early games in stone. The 5000 year old Backgammon
> board is mentioned at http://www.laputanlogic.com/articles/
> 2004/12/011-0001-6358.html website.
> Just some thoughts from an avid game player...
> Steve Sheets
> MageSteve at Mac.Com
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> hist-games at www.pbm.com
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