02 DEC 2014 – Two game pieces from the Roman era 1,800 years ago have been found in the ancient city of Kibyra, in the southern Turkish province of Burdur’s Gölhisar district.
Very little information about specific gameplay has survived, though we know that it was played using three cubic dice, and each player had 15 pieces.
Archaeologists working in the ancient city of Kibyra in the southern Turkish province of Burdur have discovered a game board dating to the first or second century C.E.
Under the aegis of Mehmet Akif Ersoy University’s archaeology department, excavations were being conducted in the city’s agora.
The board belonged to a game called Ludus duodecim scriptorium (“game of 12 markings”)—XII scripta for short—which was popular throughout the Roman Empire. The name likely came from the three rows of 12 markings inscribed on most of the Roman game boards discovered. While not much is known about the rules, the game was played by two players with three dice and may have resembled the modern game backgammon.
Demirer said the works had been continuing since 2007 on the avenue of the ancient city’s agora, adding that the game pieces were also used for other purposes.
“The game was found in the pool structure. We think that it was also used for another purpose. Because of its Latin name, we attribute the game to the Romans. It is like today’s Jacks. People spent time in the agora playing such games,” he said.
“Ludus duodecim scriptorum” was a board game popular during the time of the Roman Empire. The game tabula in Byzantium is thought to be a descendant of this game, and both are similar to modern backgammon.
According to the ancient Greek geographer Strabo, the early inhabitants of Kibyra may have descended from the Lydians, an Anatolian people (Strabo, Geography 13.4.17). Sometime in the second century B.C.E., the city formed a tetrapolis with three neighboring cities. The tetrapolis was dissolved in the first century B.C.E. and Kibyra was subsequently incorporated into the Roman province of Asia. Known for its ironworking industry, the city boasted a number of public structures, including a stadium, theater and odeon.