New Candidate for Oldest Dice Found

Haluk Sağlamtimur of Ege University reported to Discovery News that they found ancient dice at a dig site in Turkey dated at around 3000 BCE. Along with the dice they found 49 stone game pieces carved into numerous shapes, including pigs, dogs, and pyramids:

World's oldest game pieces
Dozens of elaborately carved game pieces found along with ancient dice in a 5,000 year old dig site in Turkey.

Sağlamtimur presented the find at the annual International Symposium of Excavations, Surveys and Archaeometry. He said he believed the pieces belong to a complicated chess-like game. If so, this would be evidence of a game more complicated than other ancient games like Senet or the Royal Game of Ur. His team is trying to puzzle out the rules of a game that would use all these pieces — though notably no board was found.

Ulrich Schädler, director of the Swiss Museum of Games in La Tour-de-Peilz, argues that it is unlikely this is a game of higher complexity and suggests instead that they found pieces for several different games all stored in one place. In particular he pointed out that the pyramids found look like the dice used in the Royal Game of Ur.

This site is dated to “nearly” 3000 BCE, which would make these the oldest confirmed dice. The next closest are the 4-sided dice (though they worked a bit differently from ours) found in the Royal Game of Ur dated at 2600 BCE. Games of Senet have been found dating back even farther, to 3100 BCE, but we don’t classify the 2-sided pieces as dice. The oldest d20 dates from 30BC – 300BC.

We have updated our History of Dice post & graphic to incorporate this new credit for the oldest dice.

World's oldest d20
World’s oldest d20, found in Egypt and dated to 30 BCE to 300 BCE. We have no indication of how these ancient d20s were used.
The Royal Game of Ur, dated to 2600 BCE and on display at the British Museum.
The Royal Game of Ur, dated to 2600 BCE and on display at the British Museum.

 

History of Dice Infographic
Awesome Dice’s complete history of dice, including every major dice find & first sighting of each type of dice.

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