Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ancient Board Game Pieces Discovered in Bulgarian Tomb

Story excerpted from, Sofia News Agency: Yet Another Ancient Tomb Unearthed in Bulgaria's Sozopol 14 August 2007, Tuesday A team of Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed Tuesday an ancient stone tomb, dated back to the 4th century BC, Darik News reported. The team, lead by Krastina Panayotova, stumbled upon the tomb during the annual archaeological excavations on the Harmani beach of the Black Sea town of Sozopol. A man, probably an athlete, had been buried in the tomb because the team found an object used by athletes in antiquity. Just a day earlier the archaeologists came upon the grave of another man, probably a gambler. The grave was full of dice, backgammon pieces and coins. (Emphasis added). The team of Krastina Panayotova is working on the Harmani beach of Sozopol, a site which archaeologist have been exploring for many years now. Sozopol is one of the oldest towns on Bulgarian Thrace's Black Sea coast. The first settlement on the site dates back to the Bronze Age. ***************************************************************************** I am a study in frustration. A further web search failed to turn up more details about the discovery of the board game pieces the article identified as "backgammon" pieces. There are a number of things we do NOT know from the article, unfortunately, including the exact date of the discovery. All we can deduce is that it was reported in the newspaper on August 14, 2007! We don't know how old the tomb is. Evidently it is quite a large necropolis that is being excavated, but just because one tomb is dated "Hellenic" to c. 400 BCE doesn't mean the team of the "gambler" is from the same era. We don't know how the archaeologist(s) on site arrived at the conclusion that the gaming pieces recovered were "backgammon" pieces. For all we know, they could have been smoothed pebbles used in the Greek game of Polis, or any other petteia game, as no description of the pieces was given and no photograph was provided. The fact that dice - also no description or photograph provided - were found in the same tomb does not necessarily mean that they were related to the gaming pieces. And the reference to coins found in the same tomb is intriguing. Does this imply that the "gambler" was buried with some of his winnings? Or perhaps the coins were meant to be a stake for his future games in Hades/the Afterworld? Or were the "coins" actually tokens from some other kind of board game? For example, ancient Xiang Qi (Chinese Chess) pieces have been mistaken for coins because they were circular, inscribed flat pieces of metal. All I can do at this point is make a note to check in the future to see if I can find published field notes from this excavation (ruts of ruck, Jan!) Arggghhh!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...