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'Huairu' board as drawn by Hartmann & Oberem (1968). The two players have different tracks.

'Huairu' board as drawn by Hartmann & Oberem (1968). The two players have different tracks.

Citations

... While this may seem unreasonably critical of this evidence, the identification of these patterns as mancala game boards remains speculative. Since Schädler's (1998) study of game boards in Roman Asia Minor, it has become clear that many game boards previously thought to be mancala boards are more likely instances of the game of five lines. Several sites with a Roman presence, including sites in the western part of the empire (see Figure 2.), feature the game of five lines as two rows of five holes, making mancala a second choice at best. ...
Article
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Mancala games are commonly defined by the appearance of the boards and mode of moving the pieces. The similarities have led to the belief that most mancala games are historically related or that they may be identified by appearances alone. Their ubiquity in Africa and their occurrence as graffiti boards on ancient monuments has created speculation about their antiquity. To this date their ancient status cannot be confirmed by archaeological or historical evidence. Based on today’s understanding, mancala games are of distinct kinds with separate histories while their antiquity goes back hundreds of years but not yet thousands. Mancala games have been instrumental in showing that so-called complex societies and the presence of board games are not necessarily related. By extension, state formation and the development of board games should not be connected based on the evidence of contemporary mancala gaming practices.
... While there is much archaeological evidence of ancient games, the rules for playing them are usually lost [8] and must be reconstructed by modern historians according to their knowledge of the cultures in which they were played [9], [10]. The rules for ancient and early games were typically passed on through oral tradition rather than being transcribed, which may have contributed to their variation and embellishment into the range of games that we see today [8], but means that our understanding of early games is largely based on modern reconstructions. ...
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Games potentially provide a wealth of knowledge about our shared cultural past and the development of human civilisation, but our understanding of early games is incomplete and often based on unreliable reconstructions. This paper describes the Digital Ludeme Project, a five-year research project currently underway that aims to address such issues using modern computational techniques.
... Egyptian games such as senet and mehen have a distribution mainly limited to Egypt (Rothöhler, 1996;Kendall, 2007). Similarly, although some Roman graffiti games have a wide geographic distribution (e.g., Roman "mancala" has been found in Ephesos (Schädler, 1998), Palmyra (de Voogt, 2010a) and northern Egypt (Mulvin and Sidebotham, 2004)), they adhere to the boundaries of the Roman Empire. The game of latrunculus (Austin, 1934(Austin, , 1935Schädler, 1994) is found from England to the Egypt-Sudan border and was probably distributed by soldiers, who were the main players of this game. ...
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Sexual division of labor with females as gatherers and males as hunters is a major empirical regularity of hunter-gatherer ethnography, suggesting an ancestral behavioral pattern. We present an archeological discovery and meta-analysis that challenge the man-the-hunter hypothesis. Excavations at the Andean highland site of Wilamaya Patjxa reveal a 9000-year-old human burial (WMP6) associated with a hunting toolkit of stone projectile points and animal processing tools. Osteological, proteomic, and isotopic analyses indicate that this early hunter was a young adult female who subsisted on terrestrial plants and animals. Analysis of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene burial practices throughout the Americas situate WMP6 as the earliest and most secure hunter burial in a sample that includes 10 other females in statistical parity with early male hunter burials. The findings are consistent with nongendered labor practices in which early hunter-gatherer females were big-game hunters.
... Charpentier et al. [20] refer to a board of two rows with five holes discovered in excavations of a Roman fort in Egypt and Palmyra (Syria). Whereas Mulvin and Sidebotham [42] believe that is associated with a Mancala game by Romans, Schaedler [43] means that it was used to a game of five lines, not associated with Mancala. It was the only type of board in Palmyra from the Roman Empire; however, Arabs and Ottomans used different configurations in this site later [44]. ...
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The Kalah game represents the most popular version of probably the oldest board game ever—the Mancala game. From this viewpoint, the art of playing Kalah can contribute to cultural heritage. This paper primarily focuses on a review of Kalah history and on a survey of research made so far for solving and analyzing the Kalah game (and some other related Mancala games). This review concludes that even if strong in-depth tree-search solutions for some types of the game were already published, it is still reasonable to develop less time-consumptive and computationally-demanding playing algorithms and their strategies Therefore, the paper also presents an original heuristic algorithm based on particular deterministic strategies arising from the analysis of the game rules. Standard and modified mini–max tree-search algorithms are introduced as well. A simple C++ application with Qt framework is developed to perform the algorithm verification and comparative experiments. Two sets of benchmark tests are made; namely, a tournament where a mid–experienced amateur human player competes with the three algorithms is introduced first. Then, a round-robin tournament of all the algorithms is presented. It can be deduced that the proposed heuristic algorithm has comparable success to the human player and to low-depth tree-search solutions. Moreover, multiple-case experiments proved that the opening move has a decisive impact on winning or losing. Namely, if the computer plays first, the human opponent cannot beat it. Contrariwise, if it starts to play second, using the heuristic algorithm, it nearly always loses.
... Roman period boards provide more reliable data, most of the square specimens belong to the B-type. Two examples of association of merels board with mancala game are found in western Turkey: a square and a round merels boards carved on a major Roman period street of Ephesus (west Turkey) (second century BC -AD third century), and a square board on a step of the Aphrodisias theatre (first century BC -AD fourth century) (Schädler 1998;Roueché and de Chaisemartin 1993: 109). Many other examples of round and square Roman period merels boards have been discovered in Sevilla region (Amores 2014). ...
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The merels game is a kind of board game that has been played in the Mediterranean region since the Antiquity and spread all over Eurasia during the Middle Age. There are three types of merels boards in China, among which the type with three-layer concentric squares and diagonals is the most common. After reviewing all the available archaeological data, this article shows that this game spread to China along the grassland Silk Roads. It was introduced into the Bohai State at the latest during the Tang Dynasty (AD ninth century) and became popular in the northern grassland and northeast China regions during the Liao and Jin Dynasties (AD tenth-thirteenth centuries). It spreads to the Central Plains as early as the Northern Song Dynasty and kept on circulating during the following centuries. During the Ming Dynasty, it was called “Macheng” and became a popular chess game often played in the streets.
... sometimes shared games can be evidence of likely contact between cultures). Evidence found typically only paints a partial picture of how games were played historically (Murray, 1952;Schädler, 1998Schädler, , 2013. For example, evidence can consist of boards and pieces without recorded rules, or incomplete written descriptions of a rule set. ...
... Research context While there is much archaeological evidence of ancient games, the rules for playing them are usually lost [3] and must be reconstructed by historians according to their knowledge of the cultures in which they were played [4,5]. While there has been considerable historical research into games and their use as tools of cultural analysis, much is based on the interpretation of partial evidence with little mathematical analysis, and our modern understanding of ancient games is based on (unreliable) modern reconstructions. ...
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This report summarises the Digital Ludeme Project, a recently launched 5-year research project being conducted at Maastricht University. This computational study of the world’s traditional strategy games seeks to improve our understanding of early games, their development, and their role in the spread of related mathematical ideas throughout recorded human history.
... sometimes shared games can be evidence of likely contact between cultures). Evidence found typically only paints a partial picture of how games were played historically (Murray, 1952;Schädler, 1998Schädler, , 2013. For example, evidence can consist of boards and pieces without recorded rules, or incomplete written descriptions of a rule set. ...
Preprint
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Digital Archaeoludology (DAL) is a new field of study involving the analysis and reconstruction of ancient games from incomplete descriptions and archaeological evidence using modern computational techniques. The aim is to provide digital tools and methods to help game historians and other researchers better understand traditional games, their development throughout recorded human history, and their relationship to the development of human culture and mathematical knowledge. This work is being explored in the ERC-funded Digital Ludeme Project. The aim of this inaugural international research meeting on DAL is to gather together leading experts in relevant disciplines - computer science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, computational phylogenetics, mathematics, history, archaeology, anthropology, etc. - to discuss the key themes and establish the foundations for this new field of research, so that it may continue beyond the lifetime of its initiating project.
... Because of the difficulty in identifying game boards and their paraphernalia in prehistoric archaeological contexts without textual sources (as discussed in greater detail in Chapter IV), research on board games in ancient societies has focused on a limited number of games that have been easily identifiable due to their resemblance to modern games that are, in some cases, also well-attested in textual evidence. The most commonly discussed ancient board games are the games of senet and mehen from Egypt (Kendall 1979;Montet 1955;Piccione 1990a;1990b;Pusch 1979;Ranke 1920;Vandier 1964), twenty squares (or "Royal Game of Ur) and fifty-eight holes (or "hounds and jackals " in Egypt) from the Near East (Carnarvon and Carter 1912;Dunn-Vaturi and Schädler 2006;Finkel 2007;Gadd 1934;Hoerth 1961;Pusch 2007, Rothöler 1996, pente grammai ("five lines") from Greece (Kurke 2002;Schädler 1998;, ludus latrunculorum ("game of robbers") and ludus duodecrim scripta ("game of twelve signs") from the Roman Empire (Austin 1932;1935, Krüger 1982Lamer 1927;Mulvin and Sidebotham 2002;Schädler 1994;Trifilò 2011) , and patolli from Mesoamerica (Bente Bittman and Swezey 1983;Caso 1924Caso -1927Smith 1977;Wanyerka 1999). While, historically, focus has been on finely made games that were used by the elite, in more recent years research has turned to more crudely manufactured patterns that have been interpreted as games based on their archaeological context and similarity to known examples. ...
Thesis
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This study frames research on board games within a body of anthropological theory and method to examine the long-term social changes that effect play and mechanisms through which play may influence societal change. Drawing from ethnographic literature focusing on the performative nature of games and their effectiveness at providing a method for strengthening social bonds through grounding, I examine changes in the places in which people engaged in play over the course of the Bronze Age on Cyprus (circa 2500–1050 BCE), a period of increasing social complexity. The purpose of this research is to examine how the changes in social boundaries concomitant with emergent complexity were counteracted or strengthened through the use of games as tools of interaction. Bronze Age sites on Cyprus have produced the largest dataset of game boards belonging to any ancient culture. Weight and morphological data were gathered from these artifacts to determine the likelihood of their portability and to identify what type of game was present. The presence of fixed and likely immobile games, as well as the presence of clusters of portable games, was used to identify spaces in which games were played. Counts of other types of artifacts found in the same spaces as games were tabulated, and Correspondence Analysis (CA) was performed in order to determine differences in the types of activities present in the same spaces as play. The results of the CA showed that during the Prehistoric Bronze Age, which has fewer indicators of social complexity, gaming spaces were associated with artifacts related to consumption or specialty, heirloom and imported ceramics, and rarely played in public spaces. During the Protohistoric Bronze Age, when Cyprus was more socially complex, games were more commonly played in public spaces and associated with ii artifacts related to consumption. These changes suggest a changing emphasis through time, where the initiation and strengthening of social bonds through the grounding process afforded by play is more highly valued in small-scale society, whereas the social mobility that is enabled by performance during play is exploited more commonly during periods of complexity.
... In other words, players in history may have experimented with randomizing devices and may have used varying sets of them without any visible repercussion on the remainder of the board game implements. In the history of board games it is shown that games may have varying board sizes and number of playing pieces while at the same time different games may be played on the same board, even using the same playing implements (Finkel, 2004, p. 54) Schädler (1998). Such variation that is found with board games complicates our understanding of their development in history . ...
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When looking at variations in games, the board and the playing pieces provide evidence, but so do the number of dice that are part of play. It is shown that the number of dice being used not only affects the game but that the definition of the values for each throw have significant and game-altering implications. All variations under scrutiny in this study do not appear as radically different games physically or perceptually. It illustrates a situation in which significant changes in strategy and playing length due to changes in randomizing instruments did not necessitate changes in the overall board or the number of playing pieces. In other words, players in history may have experimented with randomizing devices and may have used varying sets of them without any visible repercussion on the remainder of the board game implements. In the history of board games it is shown that games may have varying board sizes and number of playing pieces while at the same time different games may be played on the same board, even using the same playing implements Schädler (1998). Such variation that is found with board games complicates our understanding of their development in history. The attestation of a game board is not sufficient to rule out a set of different games being played on that same board, while variations of board design do not necessarily point at different playing communities (Finkel, 2004, p. 54). In order to understand the historical development of board games it is necessary to document what set of rules, boards and playing instruments were present at a particular point in time. Changes in observable variations can then be traced over time and across geographical regions to map the historical development and distribution of board games (see de Voogt, A.J., A.-E. Dunn-Vaturi & J.W. Eerkens, 2013; Murray, 1952, p. 133). This is an ongoing effort in archaeology but even descriptions of contemporary board games allow us to understand what variations are common within a players’ community. In the following study, we analyze a set of games, which have minor variations in board size and number of playing pieces as well as known variations of randomizing implements, in this case cowries and cubic dice. The role of randomizing devices in the history and distribution of board games is not yet informed by a better understanding on how such implements affect a game. For this we looked at both the implications for strategy and playing time, the latter expressed as the average number of moves necessary to complete (part of) a game. While the results of this study do not seem to facilitate conclusions when different types and numbers of dice are attested, they do confirm that players are not bound by these implements and that dice variation should be considered common rather than an unusual phenomenon that requires historical explanation.