Click-clack is the sound one often associates when rolling their polyhedron across the table, whether it’s a four-sided pyramid or a six-sided cube. Click-clack is heard by many when these various sided probability devices tumble across the surface to reveal what fate has in store. This sound brings excitement and dread to many, whether it’s determining the outcome of bet in a game of craps, or whether their Role-Playing Character is going to survive in their game of D&D. How many, though, realize that dice are as old as gaming itself? Join us now as we journey through the ages and across the world exploring the History of Dice.
There are many places throughout history claiming to have invented dice and games in general as history has grouped them together so frequently. There are even some controversies over what is considered to be the oldest dice found and the legitimacy of some of these finds throughout the years. Let’s explore briefly some of the discoveries history has dug up over the years.
In Southeast Turkey near Siirt at the burial of BASUR HOYUK, Ede University reported a discovery from a dig site dating around 3000 BCE. Along with dice, 49 stone pieces were discovered carved into various shapes such as animals and pyramids and painted red, black, white, blue and green. Similar pieces had been discovered before in Syria and Iraq, but they were not in a large piles and were believed to be used for counting.
Iran houses an archaeological site called Shahr-e Sukhteh and is the reported home of the oldest Backgammon set. It is often referred to as the ‘Burnt City’ as the ancient settlement had four stages of civilization and was burnt down three times before being abandoned. The last was in 2100 BCE. One find yielded here, besides the numerous ruling and measurement devices, is a Backgammon set with a board carved of ebony. The board has a serpent engraved, as well as a terracotta vessel found next to the board containing sixty pieces, and also dice.
India’s ancient Sumeria is historically known for ‘The Game of Ur’ after Leonard Woolley discovered the ancient game in his excavations of the Royal Cemetery at Ur. A race game using a set of four-sided tetrahedron-shaped (pyramid) dice, this game was popular across the Middle East with boards being found in Crete, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, and Syria.
Egypt’s ancient Tombs have also been home to dice discovered in archaeological digs. Tombs have been discovered to contain various types of board games with many of those including dice! Often placed in ancient Egyptian graves were Senet boards, which were believed to be used by the dead in their journey through the afterlife, with some boards including dice instead of sticks. Hounds and Jackals is another game found within Egyptian Tombs that used dice.