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Text from Cyningstan
Zohn Ahl is one of a family of “ahl” games, race games played on a circular board. The board contains special spaces at the cardinal compass points, one being the start/finish line and the others being hazards that should be avoided.
The lack of any decisions in the game mean that it will not entertain modern adults. But its simple character suits young children, and with its history it can be regarded more as a cultural activity than a cerebral contest.
Many native board games of the North American Indians use a board of forty spaces laid out in a circle. Zohn Ahl is taken as a typical example. It was played by women and girls of the Kiowa people in the United States. Similar games were played by other native North American peoples. This and its lack of resemblance to any imported Western game marks it out as a native invention, though its age is unknown.
Traditionally, the game was played on a large cloth. In the centre was placed the “ahl stone”. The casting sticks (used in place of dice) were thrown hard at the ahl stone and would bounce off it before falling on the cloth, thus ensuring the randomness of throws.
Zohn ahl, illustrated by Stewart Culin in 1898.
Two circular home made Zohn Ahl mats.
Drawing of Zohn Ahl from R C Bell’s Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations.
Drawing of Dice sticks used for Zohn Ahl from R C Bell’s Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations.