Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Games for Tables - The Earliest Board Game - Royal Game of Ur or Game of 20 Squares

Game of Ur. (British Museum)

The Royal Game of Ur is a Sumerian version of the ancient Middle Eastern game generically called The Game of Twenty Squares.  Gaming boards for the Game of Ur that were found in the royal tombs in the ruins of the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia, (Iraq) are probably the oldest board games found to this day. They date roughly to 2500 BCE.  Ur, the Biblical birthplace of Abraham, was a thriving city in the 3rd millennium BC. Excavations were conducted there from 1922-34, by an archaeological team from the British Museum & the University of Pennsylvania.

Five game boards were found. The simplest was a wooden board with discs of shell with red or blue centers. The most elaborate board was encrusted with shell plaques inlaid with lapis lazuli & red limestone. Most boards had squares & some had pieces engraved with drawings of animals.  The boards were hollow & inside each were 7 black & 7 white playing pieces & 6 dice some dotted with an inlay. Three of the found dice were made of white ivory, 3 were made of lapis lazuli.

Archaeologists found no rules for the game. The original rules of The Royal Game of Ur remain unknown, but a few historians have tried to guess at the rules based on a cuneiform tablet found in 1880 in Iraq, (in the British Museum). The tablet was prepared about 177-176 BCE by a Babylonian Scribe.
 Wooden Aseb Game of 18th Dynasty – Brooklyn Museum

Aseb is the Egyptian version of the ancient Middle Eastern game called The Game of 20 Squares. Aseb is related to the Royal Game of Ur & probably arrived in Egypt from ancient Sumer, during the 17th Dynasty. Versions of Aseb have been found in Egypt, Sudan, Crete, and India.