Iran's Burnt City Throws up World's Oldest Backgammon
Dec 4, 2004
The oldest backgammon in the world along with 60 pieces has been unearthed beneath the rubbles of the legendary Burnt City in Sistan-Baluchistan province, southeastern Iran.
Iranian archeologists working on the relics of the 5,000-year-old civilization argue this backgammon is much older than the one already discovered in Mesopotamia and their evidence is strong enough to claim the board game was first played in the Burnt City and then transferred to other civilizations.
"The backgammon reveals intriguing clues to the lifestyle of those people," said Mansour Sajjadi, head of the research team.
"The board is rectangular and made of ebony, which did not grow in Sistan and merchants used to import it from India."
He added the board features an engraved serpent coiling around itself for 20 times, thus producing 20 slots for the game, more affectionately known in Persian as Nard. The engraving, artistically done, indicates artisans in the Burnt City were masters of the craft.
"The 60 pieces were also unearthed inside a terracotta vessel beside the board. They were made of common stones quarried in the city, including agate and turquoise," Sajjadi added.
Experts still wonder why they played the game with 60 pieces and are trying to discern its rules, but it at least shows it is 100-200 years older than the one discovered in Mesopotamia.
They are also intrigued that inhabitants of ancient civilizations, widely believed to be concerned with their daily survival, could afford to indulge in such luxuries as playing board games.