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.
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