Game piece - ROM2018_16218_31


Game piece

Medium:Glazed composition (faience)
Geography: Egypt
Date: 2040-343 BC
Period: Middle Kingdom (?) to Late Period
1.4 × 2 cm
Object number: 910.165.853.E
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This blue faience piece was probably used to play a game called senet (“passing”), perhaps the most well-known board game played in ancient Egypt. Senet 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 (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 (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 can be 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 and do appear to be from the same set (910.165. 853 B-D, G), this example and one other (910.165. 853 F) are distinct from that group as well as from each other. 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 most likely dates from the New Kingdom to Late Period (c. 1550-343 B.C.).

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