Sir Leonard Woolley’s account.

Sir Leonard Woolley’s account of the four game boards found in royal graves during excavations at Ur, southern Iraq. The excavations where the boards were found took place in the late nineteen twenties and early nineteen thirties. More is known today about the game and boards than could have been know about at the time – even at the time the below text was publish in 1946.

“Four of these boards were found in the graves. All were apparently of the same type, though the decoration of the squares is very different in different examples.

The upper board shown here was very simple, little disks of shell with red or blue centres being set in the bitumen which covered the wood and formed the background. The lower example is much more elaborate, entirely covered with an encrustation of shell plaques inlaid with lapis lazuli and red lime stone and divided by lapis lazuli strips; in other examples the majority of the plaques, and also the white ‘pieces’, are engraved with animal scenes; but all agree in having the coloured rosettes in the middle row of the larger section next to the bridge.

The boards were hollow, boxes, in fact, in which were kept the counters or ‘pieces’, seven black and seven white, and the curious dice, triangular in shape with two of the four points dotted with inlay; three white and three lapis made a set, perhaps three for each player. How the game was played we do not know, but clearly the number five was very important, and one may guess that there were luck and unlucky squares.”

The Book that Started this Site.

Robert Charles Bell (1917–2002) was the author of several books on board games, most importantly Board and Table Games 1 & 2 (reprinted as Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations). This work won the Premier Award of the Doctors’ Hobbies Exhibition, London. He was instrumental in popularizing traditional games, and is acknowledged as one of 11 “principal sources” in David Parlett’s The Oxford History of Board Games.[2]