Ancient Board Games

A Playful Look at Ancient Israel

This Dogs and Jackals set from Tel Megiddo is an example of one of the many ancient board games played in Ancient Israel. Credit: Antiquities Authority.

Last week, Hasbro announced the addition of a new game piece to Monopoly, and with the northeast snowed in this past weekend, many families sat down to enjoy the classic game. Most players do not realize that we are taking part in a tradition that extends back millennia; even Neolithic populations sat down to enjoy ancient board games. Archaeologists have uncovered over 25 inscriptions in Jerusalem’s Old City that served as public boards for gaming. Excavations at the Bronze Age Canaanite site Tel Arad have uncovered over fifty ancient board games, and a “Dogs and Jackals” set from Tel Megiddo (right) was discovered alongside stone dice and other gaming pieces. A recent article in Ha’aretz includes instructions on how to play three ancient board games: Senet, Nine Men’s Morris and Mancala. While some sets were made from luxury materials and others took on religious significance, the prevalence of ancient board games all over Israel and the ancient world shows that playfulness has always been an important part of life.

Tracing the enigmatic, mystical genesis of the Greek Olympiad, the FREE eBook The Olympic Games: How They All Began takes you on a journey to ancient Greece with some of the finest scholars of the ancient world. Ranging from the original religious significance of the games to the brutal athletic competitions themselves, this free eBook paints a picture of the ancient sports world and its devoted fans.


More ancient games in Bible History Daily:

Roman Game Board Found in Turkey

Ancient Games: Bronze Age tokens uncovered in Turkey are world’s oldest game pieces

Board Games Were Status Symbols in the Ancient World


More ancient games in the BAS Library:

William W. Hallo, “Origins: Let the Games Begin!” Archaeology Odyssey, Winter 1999.

“Ancient Life: Shooting the Moon,” Archaeology Odyssey, March/April 2002.

“Ancient Life: Comic Relief,” Archaeology Odyssey, November/December 1999.

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