Posted on Tuesday 14 December 2004
recently unearthed from the ruins of the
Burnt City in southeastern Iran. The ebony board is rectangular and engraved with the pattern of a snake curling back and forth on itself twenty times, thus making twenty slots for the game. It was found along with a terracotta container which still held 60 playing pieces, including the dice* shown above. The modern game uses only 30 pieces.
Ebony was not native to the area and had to be imported from India but the playing pieces were made from locally quarried stone. This backgammon set predates a similar one found in Iraq by a few centuries
and the game may have actually been invented in the Burnt City region.
* - I know there are really only so many ways of marking numbers on a cube but I just think its really cool that dice haven't changed in the slightest in the last five thousand years - right down to the dished holes and the gently rounded edges.
UPDATE: Jason Streed in the comments points out that judging from the photo there's a good chance that these ancient dice have opposite faces that add up to seven just like with modern dice. He also has much more to say about dice on his thoughtful blog: Finches' Wings.
Also this site contains some interesting stuff about dice in different countries.