Stones found in aegean may be ancient board game

October 25, 2022 - 11:02pm

For a while now, archaeologists investigating sites around the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas have been wondering about small stone spheres they keep finding. The stones, which are smaller than golf balls, come in various colors and are made from different materials. Analysis puts the stones into two groups of larger stones and smaller.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Bristol, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, suggests that the stones may have been used as counters in a Bronze Age board game. A primary consideration is that the stone spheres come in two sizes, suggesting a purpose beyond decoration. But if they were a counting or currency system, you’d expect to find more sizes than two. In many of the sites, there are also stone slabs with shallow rounded marks in arcs and spirals, and those might well be early game boards.

The stones range from around 3,600 to 4,500 years old, which dates them as roughly contemporary with some of the other earliest known board games, such as Egypt’s Senet. The researchers plan to use artificial intelligence techniques to gain some insight into how this game of stone spheres may have been played.

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