hist-games: alea evangelii

Damian Walker damian at snigfarp.karoo.co.uk
Fri Jun 27 20:55:53 PDT 2008

Quoting M Winther's message of Yesterday:

> In Bell vol.I pp.79-80 is described a Danish game of the same 
> dimensions, found in a grave at least as old as A.D. 400. Probably 
> it's the same game, only it was renamed to Alea Evangelii.

Possibly, possibly not.  As far as sets of pieces go, there's no real 
evidence that tafl games were played before A.D. 800.  The reasoning 
given for playing tafl on the Vimose board is remarkably circular: we 
know this board was for tafl, as tafl was played around A.D. 400 when 
the board was made; we know tafl was played at that time because, well, 
we have this board from Vimose.

> It seems like Tafl games were played in the roman era, then, if the 
> board wasn't used for the Chinesegame of Go, which isn't likely.

It's important to remember that we only have one edge of the board, 1.5 
squares wide, and although some of the other outer border pieces are 
extant, there's not enough to confirm that the board was square.  It 
could be 18x12 or 18x14, for example.  Given that the board was found in 
a war booty offering, of items taken from Romanised Germans, it's no 
less likely that the board was for a large variant of Latrunculi (the 
largest confirmed latrunculi board is, I think, 10x14).

> Go used exactly the same board as Alea Evangelii, and both were played 
> on the intersections, it seems. It's a remarkable coincidence.

The differences are significant when you look into it, though.  Alea 
evangelii had completely different board markings to go: 16 corner 
squares, a single central space instead of the 9 evenly-spaced markings 
of the go board, and possibly markings on four significant other 
squares, too.  I discuss the alea evangelii in depth in a little PDF 
booklet Reconstructing Hnefatafl, available on my site below (on the 
links page).

Damian - http://tafl.snigfarp.karoo.net/

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