Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 19: board games in the afterlife

Eternity is a very long time, so it stands to reason that board games should be available. It was common for Ancient Egyptian tombs to contain board games to keep the deceased occupied in the Field of Reeds. This ivory senet board is a particularly fine example.

Senet was played on a board with thirty cells. Two players lined up their pawns on their starting line and then took it in turns to move. The moves were dictated not by dice but by the throw of four black and white senet sticks.

We know this senet board belonged to Tutankhamun because it has his throne name written on it in hieroglyphics. Can you spot his name in the inscription above?

This painting from Nefertari’s tomb shows her playing senet in the afterlife.

from the tomb of Nefertari in Egypt’s valley of the queens

Below is another popular board game, discovered by Howard Carter as it happens, though not in Tutankhamun’s tomb. It is called hounds and jackals. The hounds and jackals race each other along parallel tracks towards the finishing hole.

The hieroglyph for a senet board was mn (pronounced men or mun) and it looked like a senet board viewed from the side. If you recognize it that’s because it’s part of the name of the God Amun and therefore also Tutankhamun’s name.

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Stephen Davies

Children's author: picture books, chapter books and YA novels

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