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2,300-Year Old Board Game Discovered in Ancient Chinese Tomb

(Photos: Chinese Cultural Relics journal)

In 1974, farmers in China uncovered the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Since then archaeologists at the site have found well-preserved grave goods dating back 2,300 years, including 8,000 terracotta human and animal figures known as the Terracotta Army.

In 2004, archaeologists at the site uncovered the remains of a mysterious board game. They published on their findings in 2014. Their article was recently translated into English in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. The gaming journalism site Killscreen describes the game, which appears to be a surviving set of the long-lost game of "Bo":

The game’s pieces consist of a 14-sided die (carved out of an old animal tooth), 21 numbered rectangular game pieces, and a slab of broken tile, thought to be a piece of the game’s board. The reconstructed tile was decorated with two eyes, which were painted amongst stormy cloud and thunder sketches, as archaeologists reported in their findings.

The game’s pieces are reported by archaeologists to potentially be of “liubo,” mostly called “bo” for short. “Bo” seemingly vanished from the history of ancient Chinese board games around 1,500 years ago, and researchers have remained at a loss as to how the game was played, as well as being unsure if the rules of the game even varied from generation to generation of players. The closest clue is that of a 2,200-year-old poem by Song Yu, which recounts a game with similar pieces to the ancient board game’s artifacts found over the years.

The 14-faced die is where this ancient game gets particularly interesting. Twelve sides of the die are numbered one through six in the ancient Chinese calligraphy of zhuan-shu, or “seal script,” which existed as the formal script for all of China during the Qin dynasty. However, the remaining two sides are blank – entirely vacant of any marks. Even with this new discovery, “Bo” remains a mystery to all.

-via Ace of Spades HQ

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