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The reduced size and the fact that the boards appear to have never been used for playing suggest that the gaming boards from Jiroft had been intentionally produced as grave goods. This 30th post is sometimes surrounded by additional holes.
It is obvious that the astrological connotations of the number twelve have an important role in the game. The players, each possessing five pegs, start from the posts marked as A and A' on the diagram (FIGURE 7) and follow their respective circuits which lead to the common goal marked H.
The study of ancient games relies on archeological material which is supplemented by data from epigraphic and iconographic sources, and direct evidence is lacking in most cases. Apart from the fact that these threatening and agile creatures correspond to the competitiveness required in a race game, it seems that an apotropaic and chthonic aspect characterizes these animals, which also transcend the human sphere, serving as a link between the earth and the underworld (snake, scorpion) or the heavens (bird) respectively. The game of 58 holes was practiced in the Near East from the 2nd millennium until the 1st millennium BCE. Games seem to have been among the favorite funerary offerings.
This is due to the perishable nature of the material, such as textile, leather, and wood, which was used in making the artifacts, as well as because of the fact that often the games were simply drawn on the ground. The central row of eight fields is accompanied on either side by four fields on one end of the board, making a rectangle of 4 x 3 fields, and by two fields on the other end of the board, making a rectangle of 2 x 3 fields (see FIGURE 1 and FIGURE 2). The complete scorpion-board from Jiroft confirms the earlier identification of a fragment from the site of Tepe Yahya (Yaḥyā) in Kermān province in southeastern Iran as belonging to a similar board (Potts , p. As far as the rules of the game of 20 squares are concerned, the counters and random generators (stick dice and pyramidal dice), associated with the game boards at Ur, indicate that the game was designed as a race between two players. Ten boards are known to date from different regions in Iran: Tepe Siālk near Kāšān in west central Iran (Ghirshman, 1939, p. At Gohar Tepe in Māzandarān, a woman was buried during the 1st millennium BCE with a significant amount of bone gaming pieces (Anonymous, p. A terracotta 58-hole game board was unearthed in an Iron Age grave at Tepe Siālk, and faience pendants imitating this game have been found in the same cemetery (Ghirshman, 1939, p. XXVII, 9 and 10), which attests to the miniaturization of games adopted as symbols. 9-12 and 13, bronze), as well as from Denḵā Tepe in Azerbaijan (Muscarella, 1974, p. They become more numerous from the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE onwards, being frequently found in children’s graves. The knucklebones have small holes to indicate the values of the four sides: the smaller faces resemble a human ear and a bird’s head (called by the Romans or “dog” by Greeks and Romans) and have 4 and 3 holes respectively (Schädler, 1996; Idem, 2007, p.
From the moment you enter the grounds, a member of our staff will greet you. Two conical types are represented at Susa, one being taller than the other (Mecquenem, 1943, fig. However, Persian tradition places the invention of backgammon under its Persian name nard ( (Explanation of Chess and the Invention of Backgammon) it is Bozorgmehr (see BOZORGMEHR-E BOḴTAGĀN), the vizier of Ḵosrow I Anūšīravān (r. Among the finds associated with the famous snake-board from Šahr-e Suḵta, two truncated cones can be identified as pawns (Piperno and Salvatori, 1983, pp. 7), whereas it is rather unlikely that the small plaques of different shape had anything to do with the game. The new finds from Jiroft testify to the fact that important characteristics of the backgammon board (rows of twelve cells divided into groups of six) had already been present around 2000 BCE. 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.