Archaeologists Unearth Pieces from a 5,000 Year-Old Board GameS

While excavating an ancient burial mound at Başur Höyük near Siirt in southeast Turkey, archaeologists discovered a set of sculpted stones that may represent the earliest recorded gaming tokens.

Some 49 small carved stones were unearthed by Turkish archaeologists excavating Bronze Age graves, reports Discovery News.

They were sculpted in various shapes and painted in green, red, blue, black and white. The figurines depict pigs, dogs, and pyramids, while other items were rounded and bullet-shaped. Archaeologists also found dice and three circular tokens made of white shell and topped with a black round stone.

The discovery was made by Haluk Sağlamtimur of Ege University in İzmir, Turkey.

Similar objects have been uncovered in Syria and Iraq, but they were found as isolated pieces, and were subsequently thought to be counting stones. But these gaming pieces were found together in the same cluster — a strong indication that they belong to the same game.

Looking at the tokens, it’s difficult to infer the exact strategy or purpose of the game. But after considering the distribution, shape, and numbers of the pieces, Sağlamtimur theorizes that the game is based on the number 4. Badly preserved wood pieces were also found near the site; the archaeologists are hoping that they’ll provide some hints as to how the game was played.

The discovery confirms that board games likely originated and spread from the Fertile Crescent regions and Egypt more than 5,000 years ago a region that has also yielded ancient toys.

Sağlamtimur recently presenting these findings at the annual symposium of excavations, surveys and archaeometry in Muğla, Turkey.

More at Discovery News.

Image: Haluk Sağlamtimur