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Ancient Egyptian Games

  The ancient Egyptians had great lives and although they built a magnificent civilization by hard work they never forgot leisure and recreation. The ancient Egyptians had games to play as adults and children. Mostly board games were available but also toys were made for the little children. The game of Senet was mostly played by adults. Senet was a popular Ancient Egyptian board game. It was played mainly by wealthy adults. The game symbolized the struggle of good against evil. The evil forces tried to stop you from reaching the Kingdom of the god Osiris. One of these games was found in the tomb of Hesy along with painting of it and how to play. The rules of this game were very complex. It consisted of a board with 30 holes, 3 rows and 10 columns. Most of the games used 7 pawns, sticks or knucklebones for each of the two players but some only had 5. During the New Kingdom, the game of Senet had acquired a religious and magical meaning which symbolized the passage of the deceased through the other world with his resurrection dependant upon his/her ability to win the game.

Most of the games used 7 pawns, sticks or knucklebones for each of the two players but some only had 5. During the New Kingdom, the game of Senet had acquired a religious and magical meaning which symbolized the passage of the deceased through the other world with his resurrection dependant upon his/her ability to win the game.

Since boards games of all quality have been discovered it is needless to say that the games were played by all classes of people in Ancient Egypt.

King Tut was buried with 4 Senet boards. They were made of ivory and ebony. They were made with a drawer for game pieces and stood on 4 legs carved like bull's feet. More commonly, the board was made of plain, undecorated wood. The pieces would have been made of stone or wood. Almost all boards were made with a drawer.

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Game of the Snake,
From the collection of the Louvre, Paris,
Source: 'Les merveilles du Louvre', Edition Hachette

 

 

 

Ouija Game

jackel   Anibus    

Various types of board games have been discovered such as Dogs and Jackals, Senet or Seega, and others such as 20-squares a similar type of game called 30 and 50 squares. Dogs and Jackals games and pieces have been found in tomb of Reny-Seneb. Itís board was made of wood, ebony and ivory and shaped like a piece of furniture and roughly measuring 15x10cm. It had 4 animal carved legs and the board was made of ivory with a palm tree carved into it with fifty five holes. There were drawers that held the ebony pawns that looked like a jackal and a dogís head on a stick. Three coins were used to determine movements of the pieces on the board and the first person with all pieces at the end won the game.

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Ouija

Another board game was Ouija. Ouija boards are Ancient Egyptian luck boards. They were used to tell the future.

Many people think that Ouija is an evil spirit. I have played Ouija many times and I'm here to tell you that he is nothing to be afraid of. Its wierd to have your hands being pulled around a board, but it certainly isn't dangerous.

Sometimes Ouija does wierd things, like zapping all over the board and landing on yes or no instead of just moving to one.

The way Ouija works is this: Two people place the board on their knees. A heart-shaped "table" is placed on the board. The two people place all fingers and their thumbs on the table. The first question you always ask is, "Ouija, are you there?" and he answers yes, or doesn't answer at all.

Game of the Snake,
From the collection of the Louvre, Paris,
Source: 'Les merveilles du Louvre', Edition Hachette    Board games were popular with Egyptians of all ages and all social classes. A favourite during the Old Kingdom was Mehen , the game of the snake which was played on a one-legged table. The board bore the picture of a coiled snake, either carved or inlaid. The body of the snake was divided into squares. Up to six players used three lions, three lionesses, white and red spheres, which were ranged in a box when the game was over. One of the first Ancient Egyptian games ever found was Snake. The stone board represented a snake coiled with its head in the centre. The winner was the first person who moved their piece from the snake's tail to its head in the centre. Like all other ancient Egyptian games, its rules are unknown. More than a dozen sets of this game were found in first dynasty tombs, two of them with beautifully carved ivory lions and lionesses. With them other objects were found: some like little ivory houses with pointed roofs, some looking like todays' chess king and rook. Other pieces were cylindrical, with a little sphere on top.  

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Toys were almost always made of wood and/or clay. Tops, though, were made of powdered quartz that was shaped in a mold. Paddle dolls were made of wood and had a paddle-like shape that was decorated with paint and with hair made out of clay beads strung on twine.

 

Children's Toys

Toy cat with movable mandible and bronze teeth;
(Source: Vom Ackerbau zum Zahnrad)

    The oldest toys ever found in Egypt, little toy boats carved from wood, came from a child's tomb dating to the Predynastic Period. From the same period baked clay animals and rattles have been discovered.


    Lovely toys were made by the ancient Egyptians from wood, bone, ivory, ceramics and stone. Little children played with dolls of Nubians, toy animals, spinning tops and mechanical toys like crocodiles with moving jaws and Jumping Jacks. At el Lisht a toy made up of three carved ivory dancers was found. The figures were set in an ivory stand and could be made to spin by pulling strings. Ancient Egyptian children played with many toys. One of the more popular ones was balls made of hollow painted clay and filled with seeds. They played ball games standing, jumping high in the air, or even piggyback. These games were popular, especially with girls.

Dolls were made out of wood, with twine threaded with clay beads for hair. These were called paddle dolls. They may have been for children, or they also may have been to accompany the deceased in the afterlife.  

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Toy animals with moving parts were very popular. A wooden toy mouse had a pull string to make the tail go up and dowm. Toy horses were popular in Roman Egypt because horses were used for hunting and in battle. A carved cat or lion was popular for its movable lower jaw on a string. Toys were almost always made of wood and/or clay. Tops, though, were made of powdered quartz that was shaped in a mold. Paddle dolls were made of wood and had a paddle-like shape that was decorated with paint and with hair made out of clay beads strung on twine.

Tops were made of powdered quartz put in a mold and then glazed. These were inexpensive and therefore could be found in most poor homes. They spun by pulling a string or twisting fingers. Popular games for children were leapfrog and tug-of-war.

Children in poor families could play with tops because they were very cheap to buy. A ball or rattle could probably be made of clay from the Nile. Wooden dolls or animals were more expensive.

Ragdoll, stuffed with papyrus and rags

 

Ragdoll, stuffed with papyrus and rags

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Fitness games

.Ancient Egyptians had a lot of games. Some were for fitness and others were for fun. Hockey was played with long palm tree branches. The puck was made out of stuffed papyrus in-between two pieces of leather.

Some games were played with implements, balls being the most popular among them. With rubber 

unknown, balls were made of a leather skin filled with chaff, dry papyrus reeds tied tightly together, string or rags. Boys again preferred team . Boys again preferred team sports (like the hockey like game in the left margin), while girls generally went in for games which were less fiercely competitive.

    Marble games are very ancient. A white and a black stone marble and three little stones forming an arch seem to have been used in one such game which may have been played like a sort of mini-skittles.

    Boys played a spear throwing game in which one had to hit a target drawn on the ground, called after the god of the wine-press, Shezmu.

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