Archaeology & History
Egyptian board game used to contact the dead
By T.K. Randall
February 10, 2020 · 7 comments
An example senet board. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Keith Schengili-Roberts
An ancient Egyptian board game may have evolved into a conduit through which to contact the other side.
Known as senet, this highly popular board game rose to prominence around 5,000 years ago and remained the game of choice for many Egyptians for the next several millennia.
The game, which may have been a bit like backgammon, was played on a grid of 30 squares and each player would roll a type of dice to determine how many squares to move their 'pawns'.
Some of the squares had a specific function akin to 'miss a turn' or equivalent.
What's particularly interesting is that by around 4,300 years ago, artistic depictions of the game started to show participants playing against what appeared to be their deceased friends and relatives.
The game began to shift from a mere form of entertainment to something with spiritual and ritualistic significance with the passage of the pieces across the board coming to represent the passage of the soul traveling through the Egyptian realm of the dead and on to the afterlife.
One board in particular, which is currently kept at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California, is thought to be one of the earliest examples exhibiting this transition.
It features a square with the symbol for water - something associated with the river of the dead.
"It may be one of the first times that this aspect of the journey through the afterlife is visually rendered on the board," said archaeologist Walter Crist.
Source: Science Magazine
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