Biblical Archaeology Review 34:4, July/August 2008

Strata: What Is It?

Found in the 1920s by Sir Leonard Woolley in the Sumerian royal tombs of Ur, this game board is dated to 2600–2400 B.C., making it one of the oldest known board games. A “game of 20 squares” is mentioned in cuneiform inscriptions, and game boards of the 20-square type have been discovered from Egypt to India. According to the cuneiform texts, this game was played by two players who raced each other to the end of the board. The Royal Game of Ur, as it has come to be known, was played with two sets—one black and one white—of seven pieces and three pyramidal dice (sometimes two knucklebones, one of a sheep and one of an ox, were substituted for dice). The squares on the game board are decorated with rosettes (the lucky spaces), “eyes” and dots. The exact rules of the game are not known.
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