Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The oldest game in the world

Mysterious cupules in a 2,9000 year old rock
 in the Daraki Chattan region of India

Is this rock art, a charting of the heavens, special religious writing, prehistoric doodling or just a game?

The oldest game in the world is Mancala (or some close version of it)  And guess what you use to play it with - stones ! If it's not played on the ground, it's played on a rock surface with special holes (capules) bored into it. 

"Stone Mancala boards have been found carved into the roofs of temples in Memphis, Thebes and Luxor - the game was definitely being played in Egypt before 1400BC. It appears that the game might have evolved in Egypt from boards and counters which were used for accounting and stock taking; evidence for such record keeping boards having been found in even more Ancient Sumeria as well as Ancient Egypt."

The rules though simple can involve a lot of strategy and though they are slightly varied depending on whether it's Wari, Warri, Ware, Walle, Awari, Aware, Awaoley, Awele, Oware, Owari or Wour your playing, the basic concept is the same. 

I got introduced to the version called Kalah as a child when my father brought the game home for our family to play at Christmas. It was a smash hit and remained so for many Christmases.

Years later, still enjoying the game and yet running into few people who knew about it, I decided to laminate pieces of wood together to make a home-made version of Kalah to give away as a gift.

Even though you can buy many manufactured wood and plastic versions these days or even play it online on the computer, if you wanted to, you could go down to the beach and dig some holes and still play it the old prehistoric way, with stones. 

And of course if your talented, you can just make your own. 
Here's a beautiful one made with hand painted plant pots and seeds.

Try your hand at the online version.

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