There are many forms of dice used for gaming going back thousands of years, all made from different materials: bone, Ivory, metal, wood, glass, clay, even stone. They range from two-sided throwing sticks to four-sided tetrahedral dice, six-sided cube dice to dice that have so many sides it beggars belief, from Cowrie shells to coins and knuckle bones to figurines.
Two Sided Throwing Stick Dice
Animal Knuckle Bones
Mini Metal Figurines Dice
Ivory Cube Dice
The binary dice system relies on objects with two sides, or objects that can present two options like the marked points on tetrahedral dice. Two of the four points on a tetrahedral die were marked at the tips to act as the pips of the die. If three tetrahedral dice were used, they could either fall with one of the die with a marked tip pointing up and two dice with un-marked tips pointing up (indicating the overall pip count for all three dice as 1), or two or three of the dice could fall with two or three marked tips pointing up, giving a count of 2-3. If all three dice were to fall with no marked tips pointing up, then this would count as a 4.
Two sided sticks work in the same manner whereby one side would either be marked or darker and the other side would be un-marked or lighter. The lighter un-marked sides represented the pips of the dice. Knuckle bones were also used in this way whereby the flatter sides probably counted as the pips and the rounded sides as the ‘no pip’ sides. It is the same principle for using coins for dice with the binary system with heads and tails.
The pieces used for the games also varied in size, shape and material: from elaborate carvings to simple glass or stone counters; from coins to shells – in fact anything that could be used for game pieces would be used – depending on your class status. Coins, having two distinguishing sides, can be used whereby one player uses heads to represent their counters and the other player uses tails to represent theirs counters.
Elaborate Game Pieces
Simple Game Pieces
Even Pegs were used as game pieces. The most famous from ancient times being the game of 58 Holes also known as Hounds And Jackals.
Game boards, too, came in all shapes and sizes. They were either made of wood, stone – or scratched into stone such as paving and statues – and even cloth boards with elaborate designs.
Roman game board from Corbridge, England, Stone.
Hounds And Jackals/58 Holes, Wood.
Senet Boards, Wood,
The Royal Game Of Ur (aka 20 Squares) Wood.
20 Squares, Scratched Stone.
Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum, Stone.
Roman 8×8 Board, Stone.
Nine Men’s Morris, Scratched Stone.
Pachisi (Ludo) Cloth.
Snakes And Ladders, Cloth.
Corbridge Roman Town – Hadrian’s Wall. English Heritage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/corbridge-roman-town-hadrians-wall/history/collection
Native American Game of Chance: https://archaeology.uiowa.edu/sites/archaeology.uiowa.edu/files/NativeAmericanGames.pdf
Pomo Indian Stick Dice: http://mathcentral.uregina.ca/rr/database/rr.09.00/treptau1/game2.
Apache Throw Sticks: http://mathcentral.uregina.ca/rr/database/rr.09.00/treptau1/game6.html
Long Dice Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_dice