Ancient Board Game Unearthed in Oman

A team of archeologists in the country of Oman recently discovered an ancient board game dated from about 4,000 years ago.

Published: January 13, 2022 3:14 PM /


The recently discovered ancient stone board game uncovered in Oman

The subjects of ancient history and tabletop gaming have more overlap than some think. Ancient board games have appeared throughout history, reflecting something about the culture it was created. For example, there have been multiple permutations of chess and checkers uncovered everywhere from England, China, and even Jerusalem. Now, it seems that archeologists have discovered another of these cultural curiosities in Oman.

According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, a group of local archeologists were investigating the remains of a prehistoric settlement in the Arabian Peninsula. This settlement was in the Qumayrah Valley, located in modern-day Omar, and the team behind the discovery was lead by Piotr Bieliński of the Polish Centre of Mediterraneon Archeology. It was here that the team discovered the game which was described as a stone slab carved with a grid and cup holes to hold game pieces.

According to Bieliński, discovering an ancient board game in the area isn't exactly unheard of. In an official statement, Bieliński mentioned that similar games have been uncovered from stretches of India, Mesopotamia, and even stretching out to the Mediterranean. In fact, one of the oldest board games discovered, officially titled the Royal Game of Ur, was discovered in the titular city of Mesopotamia dating back 4,500 years. In addition, it bears a lot of similarities to a more contemporary tabletop experience: Backgammon.

An archeologist discovering the remains of copper in Oman
The discovery of copper at the site brings up more questions. Image Credit: J. Sliwa/PCMA UW

As for what exactly this stone board game meant for this village in Oman, the discoveries surrounding it do invite speculation. According to a report by Ancient Origins, the remains of stone towers and evidence of copper production dating back to the Bronze Age (3200-1200 B.C.E) were discovered at the site as well. To quote Bieliński, "This shows that our settlement participated in the lucrative copper trade for which Oman was famous at that time, with mentions of Omani copper present in the cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia,". Furthermore, it appears that the site was in production all the way up to the Iron Age (1100-600 B.C.E.)

With that kind of lucrative business and with such an active economy, the ancient board game uncovered at this site could have come from anywhere. It could have originated on the site or passed on by the passing hands of trade partners from across the ancient world. That will be a mystery for archeologists and anthropologists alike to speculate and ponder.

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Ever since he was small, Tyler Chancey has had a deep, abiding love for video games and a tendency to think and overanalyze everything he enjoyed. This… More about Tyler