Board games history: the great-grandfathers of chess
Posted December 17, 2009on:
Currently, the oldest board game of the world is the Egyptian Senet, dated 3500 BC. Senet is mentioned in the Book of the Dead, the Egyptian funerary text which describes the afterlife believes of this ancient civility.
It was believed that winning players of Senet were protected by the tree most powerful gods of ancient Egypt: Ra, Thoth and Osiris.
The Senet is played on a bridge of thirty boxes, while on the back, a second plank of twenty boxes were used for another game called Tjau, but we don’t know with certainty the rules of the game.
Senet game board really similar to the chess one and for this reason many scholars think that this ancient Egyptian board game is the great-great-grandfather of the game of chess.
Four sets to play Senet, handmade carved in ivory, were discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1333 BC.
Another ancient board game is the chess set of the Scottish island of Lewis, consisting of 78 pieces of Nordic origin made with Ivory and whale bones. The Isle of Lewis Chess Set is a really piece of games archaeology and dates back to the twelfth century (1150-1170 AD) and perhaps, it is the only examples to date of existing medieval chess.
However some scholars believe, that those on the island of Lewis are not real chess: according to a recent research the pieces could be used to play Hnefatafl, a medieval war game extremely popular in Scandinavia and very similar to chess, but played on a bigger game board and with more pieces (8 King, 8 queens, 16 bishops, 15 riders, 12 towers and 19 pawns).
Probably these Chess looking like pieces have been lost or abandoned by some Nordic merchant and the Scottish island of Lewis.
Currently 67 pieces are kept at the British Museum, while the other 11 are located at the Royal Museum of Scotland.