Sore Loser’s 7th-Century Game Piece Found

By: The Scribe on Monday, November 25, 2013

gambling anglo saxonsModern-day board game enthusiasts are certainly familiar with this scenario: Picking out a game from the shelves, opening the box, getting the game set up, only to discover that… a piece is missing?!

In the Lyminge hall in Anglo-Saxon Kent, some 1,300 years ago, this exact scenario may have played out. Archaeologists discovered a gaming piece from the 7th-century that belonged to nobles living the high life—a life rich enough to afford expertly crafted gaming pieces, in this case a suspected 6th-century Lombard piece.

Made from hollow bone and closed with delicate wooden caps, held together by a bronze pin, the gaming piece may have been tossed aside in frustration or anger by a sore loser—a king or noble, disgusted at a loss, throwing the piece over his shoulder. Its disappearance is tantamount to having something slide under the fridge or stove—impossible to find later on, and only re-discovered under exceptional circumstances.

board gameDuring this time, it was far more common for gaming pieces to be made out of wood or chunks of bone, but this piece’s expert craftsmanship does imply that the kings of Kent weren’t hurting for luxuries during their rule.

The Anglo-Saxons were avid board gamers (and gamblers!), playing such games as tabula (an early form of backgammon) and latrunculi (similar to draughts)—and it wasn’t uncommon for men to be buried with their dice or gaming boards.


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