4,000 Year-Old Board Game Discovered

Archeologists recently discovered a 4,000 year-old board game in Oman. Scientists discovered a stone game board while excavating a Bronze Age settlement in northern Oman, which featured a grid-like carving and cup holes to hold game pieces. "Such finds are rare, but examples are known from an area stretching from India, through Mesopotamia even to the Eastern Mediterranean," explained Piotr Bielinski to the Oman Observer. "The most famous example of a game-board based on a similar principle is the one from the graves from Ur."

The game board was discovered at a site containing the remnants of at least four towers and evidence of copper smelting. The findings indicate that the settlement was part of the lucrative copper trade that the region was famed for during ancient times. 

Board games have long been part of human culture, as archeologists have discovered evidence of board games in many ancient tombs and structures. The ancient Egyptians had several board games, including Hounds and Jackals, Mehen, and Senet. Checkers also likely has its origins as an Egyptian game that was eventually adopted by the Greek and Romans. Ancient versions of backgammon also existed, with variants discovered in tomb sites in Ur. Chess is another ancient game, having originated in India sometime in the 7th century. Mancala also dates back to at least the 7th century, with evidence the game may date all the way back to Ancient Egypt as well. 


Because only the board was discovered, it's likely that we won't know exactly what the rules of the game are. The exact rules of many ancient games are unclear due to the lack of manuals, although a few games have been "rediscovered" thanks to descriptions of how the games were played in ancient manuscripts. The Royal Game of Ur, for instance, was reconstructed thanks to the discovery of several clay tablets explaining the nuances of the game.  Other games, like Senet, have more nebulous rules due to a combination of incomplete data and the game's rules evolving over time.