|Archaeologists think this 14-face die was used to play a game called "bo" that hasn't been played in 1,500 years.|
Credit: Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics
There, archaeologists found a 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them and a broken tile which was once part of a game board. The tile when reconstructed was "decorated with two eyes, which are surrounded by cloud-and-thunder patterns," wrote the archaeologists in a report published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.
The skeleton of possibly one of the grave robbers was also discovered in a shaft made within the tomb by looters. [See Photos of the Ancient Tomb and Board Game Pieces]
Twelve faces of the die are numbered 1 through 6 in a form of ancient Chinese writing known as "seal script." Each number appears twice on the die while two faces were left blank, the researchers noted.
The artifacts seem to be part of a game called "bo," sometimes referred to as "liubo" the archaeologists said. Researchers who have studied the game of bo are uncertain exactly how it was played. People stopped playing it around 1,500 years ago and the rules may have changed during the time that it was played.
However, a poem written about 2,200 years ago by a man named Song Yu gives an idea as to what the game was like:
"Then, with bamboo dice and ivory pieces, the game of Liu Bo is begun; sides are taken; they advance together; keenly they threaten each other. Pieces are kinged, and the scoring doubled. Shouts of 'five white!' arise" (translation by David Hawkes).
The tomb itself has two large ramps that lead to a staircase descending into the burial chamber. Five pits holding grave goods for the deceased are located beside the tomb. In ancient times, the tomb — which is about 330 feet (100 meters) long — was covered with a burial mound (now destroyed).
"Despite the huge scale of the tomb, it has been thoroughly robbed," the archaeologists wrote. "The coffin chamber was almost completely dug out and robbed, suffering severe damage in the process."
Archaeologists found 26 shafts dug into the tomb by looters. One of the shafts "yielded a curled-up human skeleton, which might be the remains of one of the tomb robbers," wrote the archaeologists, who said they don't know when this person died, why he or she was buried in the looting shaft, or the person's age or sex.
Winner takes all
During the third century B.C., a state called Qin, ruled by a man named Qin Shi Huangdi, gradually conquered the other states, including the state of Qi.
Qi itself survived until 221 B.C., when Qin Shi Huangdi conquered it, unifying all of China and becoming the country's first emperor. Qin Shi Huangdi then began construction of his own tomb, which was guarded by a terracotta army.
The tomb near Qingzhou city was excavated in 2004 by archaeologists from the Qingzhou Municipal Museum and Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology. The finds were first reported in Chinese in 2014 in the journal Wenwu. Recently, the Wenwu article was translated into English and published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.
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Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an ancient board game, including a decorated dice and tiles, that hasn't been played for 1,500 years. Discovered in China, the mysterious game was found alongside a tomb. In a shaft within the tomb, the scientists discovered the remains of what may be one of the robbers who looted the tomb. [Read full story on the China tomb]
Using available materials
This dice, made out of animal tooth, was found in a tomb that dates back around 2,300 years. The tomb is near Qingzhou City in China. The tomb itself had been heavily robbed but this dice, along with game pieces and a broken game tile, were found in a pit containing grave goods.
The dice has 14 faces. Two of the faces are blank while the others contain the numbers 1 through 6, with each number shown twice on the dice. (Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)
Get in the game
Twenty-one game pieces were found near the dice. They have numbers painted on them. Two of the pieces are shown here. (Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)
A reconstruction of the broken game tile that was found near the dice and game pieces. Archaeologists say that the tile is decorated with "two eyes, which are surrounded by cloud-and-thunder patterns." (Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)
Archaeologists believe that the dice, game pieces and tile would have been used to play a game called "bo" (also known as "liubo"). The game stopped being played around 1,500 years ago and the rules are uncertain. A poem written around 2,200 years ago by a man named Song Yu gives some idea as to what happened.
"Then with bamboo dice and ivory pieces the game of Liu Bo is begun; Sides are taken; they advance together; keenly they threaten each other. Pieces are kinged and the scoring doubled. Shouts of 'five white!' arise." (Translation by David Hawkes) (Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)
A grand burial site
An image of the tomb facing west. The dice, game pieces and tile were found in a pit located beside the tomb. The occupant of the tomb is unknown. Archaeologists believe that it would have been built for the aristocracy of "Qi," an ancient state in China. This state was conquered by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, In 221 BC. (Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)
Evidence of desecration
Sadly the tomb had been heavily looted and many artifacts had been robbed. Archaeologists found 26 shafts dug by looters. This image shows a few of them. (Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)
Odds and ends
The pit where the dice, game pieces and tile were found along with other artifacts. (Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)
A panoramic view of the tomb facing north. The tomb has two ramps that lead to a heavily robbed burial chamber. (Image courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)