Dec 12, 2018

Old game board carved in the land at 4,000 years old

A pattern of small holes cut on the floor of an old rock shelter in Azerbaijan shows that one of the oldest board games in the world was played by pastors nomads at 4,000 years ago, this was investigated by an archaeologist.


Walter Crist, researcher at the American Museum of Natural History of new York, visited the rock shelter in a national park in Azerbaijan last year, looking for traces of the ancient game now known as "58 holes ".

The game is also called  "Hounds and Jackals ". British archaeologist Howard Carter found a game with animal-like pieces at the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhat IV, who lived in the 18th century B.C.

The distinctive pattern of the round holes marked on the rock of the shelter in Azerbaijan came from this same game, according to Crist from Live Science. But the version of Azerbaijan can be even older than the set of games found in the Pharaoh's tomb.

Evidence of rock drawings near this shelter suggested that it dates back to the second millennium B.C., or about 4,000 years ago, when part of Azerbaijan was populated by nomadic cattle shepherds.

At that time, the game was common throughout the old Middle East, including Egypt, Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

 "Suddenly appears everywhere at once ," said Crist.  "At this time, the oldest is from Egypt ". Azerbaijan Travel

Crist was looking for the remains of another copy of the game "58 holes" that he had seen in a photograph of an Azerbaijani magazine.

But after being able to fly there, he discovered that a new housing complex had buried the archaeological site near the nation's capital, Baku.

Thus, Crist investigated other archaeological sites in Azerbaijan, which led him to the Gobustan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the southwest of the country, which is famous for its rock sculptures and ancient designs.

The park archaeologists knew of the holes in the rocky shelter, but did not know that they had been used as board game. The holes are cut into the rock of the shelter in a distinctive pattern that shows how they were used, said Crist. 

Although the rules of the game are unknown, many think it was played a bit like the "Backgammom", with counters, with seeds or stones, moved by the board until they reached a goal.

 "There are two lines in the middle and holes that bend around the outside, and are always the 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th holes marked in some way ," Crist said about the cut pattern in the rocky shelter.  "The hole at the top is a little bigger than the others, and usually is what people think as goal or end point of the game. "

Players may have used data or posted bats to regulate the movement of counters on the board, but so far, no dice have been found with any old game of 58 holes.

Although it has been reported that the game is an ancient ancestor of the "Backgammom", Crist rejects this idea. "They have some similarities, but the" backgammom "derives from a Roman game that appeared later, called Tabula."

The game of 58 holes is old, but it is not the oldest yet found; The Royal Game of your, which dates from the third millennium B.C., is older. Crist also studied the Ancient Egyptian board games of Senet and Mehen, which arose around 3000 B.C.

According to Crist, the use of these old games in a wide area shows that our ancestors were able to cross cultural boundaries.

 "People are using the games to interact with each other," he said. The games were  "Something purely human, a sort of abstraction-moving stones in empty spaces on the ground has no real effect in everyday life, except for the fact that it helps to interact with someone else."

 "So a game is an interaction tool, a type of language-a shared way of interacting with people ," said Crist.

He presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Denver in November.