Game piece - ROM2016_15340_7


Game piece

Medium:Glazed composition (faience)
Geography: Egypt
Date: c. 1550-1069 BC
Period: 18th-20th Dynasty, New Kingdom
2.5 cm
Object number: 908.40.4
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians loved to play board games, particularly two we know of called ‘Senet’ – which means ‘passing.’ and another called 'Twenty Squares.'   There are remains of game boards and game pieces from the earliest times until the Romans.  Although games were  played by the living, game boards and pieces were often buried with the dead.

People of all social classes seem to have enjoyed playing.

Senet was a game for two, like chess, played on a board with three rows of ten spaces or ‘houses’ in each.  The game pieces were called ibau  (dancers). There were usually seven pieces to each player, though the number could vary from five to ten.  The rules of the game are not known in detail, but the aim seems to have been to get all one’s pieces ‘home’ or off the board.  Sometimes the last five squares were decorated with images and even words.

'Twenty Squares' appears to have been a game of Babylonian origin, which, although very popular, did not gather the symbolic associations of senet, which seems, like chess, to have had  connotations of life and death.

If you see an error or have additional information, please contact us by clicking here.