With all the Old Testament accounts of wars and hardships, it might be difficult to picture our ancient ancestors doing anything just for fun. But archaeologists have discovered numerous early game boards that suggest they did.
Last year, a researcher found a 4,000-year-old game board cut into the floor of a rock shelter in Azerbaijan, a southwest Asian country north of Iran and south of Russia, Live Science reported. Archaeologists have also found evidence of the game, now known as “58 holes” or “Hounds and Jackals,” dating to the same time period throughout the Middle East, Walter Crist, a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said. According to many Biblical timelines, that could mean people in the Middle East played the game as early as the time of the patriarch Abraham and his wife, Sarah.
The game boards consisted of two sets of 29 holes with the object of moving pieces from one end of the board to another while capturing an opponent’s pieces on the way. Crist noted that use of the ancient game throughout such a widespread area shows it crossed cultural boundaries. Games represent a uniquely human activity; moving stones around on the ground serves no real purpose except to help people interact. It’s “kind of like language—a shared way of being able to interact with people,” Crist said. —J.B.