Game-tokens found in 5,000-year-old burial mound


Ege University's Haluk Sağlamtimur presented a remarkable find of 5,000-year-old gaming tokens found in a Bronze Age burial mound at Başur Höyük in Turkey. They take a variety of forms ("Some depict pigs, dogs and pyramids, others feature round and bullet shapes. We also found dice as well as three circular tokens made of white shell and topped with a black round stone") and suggest a game based in some way on the number four.

The find confirms that board games likely originated and spread from the Fertile Crescent regions and Egypt more than 5,000 years ago (Senet from predynastic Egypt is considered the world's oldest game board). The tokens were accompanied by badly preserved wooden pieces or sticks. Sağlamtimur hopes they'll provide some hints on the rules and logic behind the game.

"According to distribution, shape and numbers of the stone pieces, it appears that the game is based on the number 4," he said.

Oldest Gaming Tokens Found in Turkey [Rossella Lorenzi/Discovery]

(via Geekologie)

Notable Replies

  1. seyo says:

    nice D4s!

  2. SteveT says:

    Pen Bird - do you have any references or good search terms for that? I've never heard of miniature tokens of ownership before and I'm interested.

  3. I remember reading about them a long, long time ago, back when humans communicated by impressing thin sheets of processed plant fiber with black ink. These web pages look like what I read:

    http://en.finaly.org/index.php/The_earliest_precursor_of_writing

    http://en.finaly.org/index.php/Two_precursors_of_writing:_plain_and_complex_tokens

    Actually, it was the 1977 Scientific American article cited here:

    http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com/2013/05/tokens-and-bullae-evolve-into-indus.html

    I have always wanted to learn Linear Cuneiform B in college, but I was afraid that they would have some silly prerequisite first, such as Linear Cuneiform A.

  4. Indeed! The dawn of history must have been a fun and terrifying place to operate. Money and game tokens could be linked, and jewelry and tschotchkes in general. Sometimes they call them religious, sometimes toys, why couldn't they be just pleasant things to have around? ( I am speaking a bit more broadly now . . . ) I imagine the purpose evolving and just popping between uses now and then while social standards were evolving. The same object could be a religious icon to the user and more or less cash to its maker. The present system is only a slight modification.

    ( I am content to speculate. The academic tendency to nail things down doesn't jibe with my experience. Though I realize the "economy" of such a system (academia) forces such confidence even when there is really no need to be so sure. Am I to read between the lines or are they really all dunces?)

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