Game piece - ROM2016_15340_12


Game piece

Medium:Glazed composition (faience)
Geography: Egypt
Period: Undetermined period
1.2 x 1.7 cm
Object number: 909.80.536
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.'  People of all social classes seem to have enjoyed playing. 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.

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,' was another game, which appears to have been of Babylonian origin.  Although it was very popular, did not gather the symbolic associations of senet, which seems, like chess, to have had connotations of life and death.

This style of piece is referred to as 'spool-shaped. The unusually dark blue glaze may have been intended to imitate lapis lazuli.

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