(PDF link below. Right click to save to Desktop)
The Royal Game of Ur (also known as 20 Squares) is an ancient Sumerian game and is believed to have originated as far back as 5000 years (possibly stemming from an even old culture).
The gameboard in the pictures is one of five found in the royal tomb of Ur in Southern Iraq in the late 1920’s by Sir Leonard Woolly and dates back to around 2600 BC, the period of the First Dynasty of Ur. The boards were found with their playing pieces, seven each, and two types of dice – tetrahedron dice and four-sided stick dice.
The board in the pictures presently resides in the British Museum. (Google, Dr Irving Finkel and the Royal Game Of Ur for further information)
The board layout changed sometime after the first millennium BC whereby the centre lane – the main lane of contact between players – was extended and the side squares removed. Three rosettes adorn the centre lane but the two on either side of the starting lanes appear to have been removed.
Due to a small Babylonian clay tablet written in cuneiform script and translated by Dr Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum, the rules of play for a version of the game played nationally at the time was written down.