Game piece - ROM2018_16218_25


Game piece

Medium:Glazed composition (faience)
Geography: Egypt
Date: c. 1069 BC-642 AD
Period: Third Intermediate Period to Greco-Roman
1.4 × 2.5 cm
Object number: 910.165.853.C
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This conical blue faience game piece probably belonged to a type of game called senet (“passing”), perhaps the most well-known board game played in ancient Egypt. It seems to have been enjoyed across society, regardless of social rank or station. While the earliest concrete evidence (i.e. an intact board) dates to the 5th Dynasty (c. 2494-2345 B.C.), evidence pointing to earlier use of the game exists, and evidence for gaming in general stretches back to the earliest days of the Egyptian state and beyond. Senet is a game for two, consisting of 30 squares, as well as two sets of gaming pieces and often casting sticks. While the game may have carried religious significance in earlier periods as well, by the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1069 B.C.) senet seems to have developed symbolic associations with navigating the journey to the afterlife.

This piece is made of faience, though examples of gaming pieces found in Egypt were made from a variety of different materials. This piece was purchased by C.T. Currelly in the early 20th Century with a game board and five other game pieces. While several of these match this particular example and do appear to be from the same set (910.165. 853 B-D, G), two do not, and are also distinct from each other (910.165. 853 E and F). This may indicate that while the pieces and game board were purchased as a set, they may not have originally belonged together. Because of this, it is difficult to date each element with certainty. This example may date from any time between the Third Intermediate Period to the Ptolemaic Period (c. 1069-30 B.C.).

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