The History of Dice…as seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

A lot of gaming pieces featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art are dice.  We can’t say for sure that girls used dice in their games, but given what we’ve found already, I’d make a bet that at least some of these cultures allowed girls to utilize dice.

Since I am going to be part of the LORT livestream tonight (and thus unable to get a more detailed post out to you), I thought we’d have a bit of fun and journey through the history of dice, as told by the Met’s collections.  Enjoy!

Eight glass astragali (knucklebones) from Hellenistic Greece
Group of eight glass astragali (knucklebones), which were often used like dice in Hellenistic Greece. Dated to the 3rd or 2nd century BCE, these were cast in a two-part mold after the knucklebones of sheep or goats.



Ivory dice from Ancient Rome at el-Bahnasa
Ivory dice from the Roman Period, 30 BC to 330 AD, discovered at el-Bahnasa (Oxyrhynchus) during excavations in the late 1800s.


d20 from Ancient Greece
Faience polyhedron inscribed with letters of the Greek alphabet. This dice dates to the 2nd or 3rd century CE. It may have been used in conjunction with consulting an oracle. As described by the Met, “The polyhedron was thrown in order to choose a letter at random. One consulted the inscription to find the matching letter and read the oracle’s response. There would be twenty oracular messages, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet that corresponded to one side of the dice.”


Glass d6 from Ancient Rome
Glass die from Ancient Rome near Cyprus, dated to 1st or 2nd century CE. The edges are beveled and dots are drilled into each side of the die.


Ivory or bone d6 from Islamic Iran
Ivory or bone die, one of a set, incised and inlaid with paint.  Dated to 9th or 10th century CE from the Islamic culture of what is now Iran. The dot in circle motif may have alluded to a magical significance, such as warding off the evil-eye, but it also may be a decorative pattern.


Jet dice, Islamic
Dice made of Jet, from Islamic culture of Egypt around 10th or 11th century CE.


18th century d6
One of five dice from Staffordshire in Britain, dated to around 1750-1775, and made of salt-glazed stoneware.

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