Fragmentary gaming board: game of 58 holes

Old Assyrian Trading Colony

Not on view

This fragment belongs to a group of carved ivories, mostly furniture elements, probably found at the site of a palace at Acemhöyük in central Anatolia. Like another piece in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection (36.70.37a2), it was originally part of a gaming board for playing an ancient game known today as the game of fifty-eight holes. The game was played as a race between two players with game pieces in the form of pegs that were inserted into the holes making up each player’s track, as in the modern game of cribbage, although the two games are not related. Since the earliest boards for the game of fifty-eight holes come from Egypt, such as an example from Thebes which still has its animal-headed pegs (Department of Egyptian Art, 26.7.1287), the game itself may have originated there. Interestingly, the fragmentary and complete game boards found in Old Assyrian contexts in Anatolia all have 61 holes; this idiosyncrasy has been linked to the Mesopotamian sexagesimal system (that is, a system of numerals using base 60) and it has been suggested that the game boards were used for accounting as well as leisure. More than seventy examples of boards of this type are known from Egypt and the Near East, including an additional board from Acemhöyük now in the Ankara Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

Fragmentary gaming board: game of 58 holes, Ivory, Old Assyrian Trading Colony

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