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Mon Jun 15, 2020, 03:37 AM

Ancient Roman dice unearthed in cremation pit in Norway

By Yasemin Saplakoglu - Staff Writer 3 days ago

Ancient board games were a "symbol of position in society"

Ancient dice (four faces shown here) was found in an early Iron Age grave cairn in Western Norway.
(Image: University Museum at Bergen)

On a cliff overlooking a narrow strait in western Norway, archaeologists have discovered rare game pieces, including odd-looking, elongated dice inside a burial mound dating to the Roman Iron Age, between A.D. 1 and A.D. 400.

The game pieces, with bulls-eye-like markings that stood for various numbers and 18 circular pieces, may have been made from rare material such as antlers.

The pieces were likely used in a board game inspired by the Roman game Ludus latrunculorum, precursor to the famous Viking board game Hnefatafl, which was played hundreds of years later, according to a statement from the University Museum of Bergen. These board games were a "symbol of position in society," and "showed the basic capabilities of thinking intelligently and strategically," said Morten Ramstad, a researcher with the University Museum of Bergen, who led the excavations.

Board games in ancient Scandinavia were played only by the elite, and so these gaming pieces and the burial in which they were found likely belonged to a powerful person, Ramstad said. But the discovery of this grave cairn (a pile of stones serving as a burial mound) wasn't much of a surprise.


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