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The dice shown here date to the Roman Period. Games with cuboid die were popularised in Egypt during Roman rule. The Greek historian Plutarch describes Cleopatra playing dice with Mark Anthony (though he was writing years after the death of the queen). Prior to this period moves on board games were usually determined by means of throwsticks.

There are isolated occurrences of cuboid dice earlier, for example from Amarna and Lisht (Hayes 1959, 405) and the temple at Deir el-Bahri (Carnarvon and Carter 1912, 58, footnote 1).

It is noticeable that the pips (dots or circles indicating numbers) on the faces of the dice shown here are patterned in the same way as modern dice, with one opposite six, two opposite five, and three opposite four. This has been the basic design since about 1400BC.

Carnarvon and Carter, H. 1912 Five years’ explorations at Thebes : a record of work done 1907-1911.

Crist, W., Dunn-Vaturi, A-E., and Alex de Voogt 2016, Ancient Egyptians at Play: Board Games Across Borders. London and New York: Bloomsbury.

Hayes, W.C., The Sceptre of Egypt Volume II : A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, The Hyksos Period and the New Kingdom (1675–1080 B.C.).

Souter, K. 2012. The Pocket Guide to Dice and Dice Games


Other games in the Egypt Centre

Other Roman Period items in the Egypt Centre