The Egyptians had board games to play in their leisure time. Many of Egyptian board games were simple boards that could be drawn of etched into simple surfaces like dirt, wood, or stone. This made them popular with the lower class who could play these games anywhere and often couldn’t afford specialty boards. Most of Egyptian board games we know of were just 2 players. Today Senet is remembered as THE Egyptian board game. It is depicted as the most popular game in ancient Egypt. It was so popular that 4 Senet boards were found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. This game is played on a 3 square x 10 square board. Turns are made by rolling sticks, and movement is similar to modern checkers. The oldest Senet board dates back to 3000 BC along with the game Mehen (or Snake) and Aseb. The game of Aseb was played on a similar size board to Senet but with a different arrangment, so Aseb boards were often found on the back of Senet boards. These games eventually merged to develop into modern day Backgammon.
Mehen/Snake was first discovered in the 1920’s. It is unusual for an Egyptian board game because it is for up to 6 players. Unfortunately we are not sure on the rules for this game. As with many of these games the board was discovered, but no one ever wrote the rules down. Archaeologists try to guess the rules by trial and error, but this often isn’t very effective. (Yes, they sit around playing board games as their JOB.)
The last two board games I’ll just mention briefly. The games ‘Seega’ and ‘Hounds and Jackals.’ Seega is very similar to a game from ancient Greece called Petteia. Some ancient sources from Greece attribute the game Petteia to the Egyptians so it is speculated that the Greeks got it from the Egyptian game Seega.
Hounds and Jackals dates back to 2100 BC and was found in Thebes. The boards that have been found for this game are significantly more intricate being stood on legs, and the game is said to be the game of Pharaohs. The game was probably limited to the upper class due to the more complex board needing an artisan to create it, so the lower class couldn’t always afford it.
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