Did the Ancient Egyptians Play D&D?


It seems that D&D goes way back further than Wizards of the Coast (or TSR!). Well, not really – but it seems Egyptians were playing with d20s long before anyone else. All the way from Egypt’s Ptolemaic Period (that’s somewhere around 304-30 B.C.) comes the oldest 20-sided die we have yet to see.

It’s interesting to imagine what the Egyptians might have used this for. Were they doing initiative checks in a version of D&D that involved the gods and fighting jackals in the desert? Or perhaps it was a religious item, designated as the voice of Ra on Earth?

What do you think the Egyptians did with the oldest d20?

[Via Geekologie]

14 Responses to Did the Ancient Egyptians Play D&D?

  1. Interesting. Those appear to be Greek letters on the die. The Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt were Greeks, after all, but that indicates to me that this artifact wasn't part of the traditional Egyptian religion — though it could have been part of one of the new Hellenistic religions of that time.

  2. "It seems that D&D goes way back further than Wizards of the Coast. Well, not really" Yes really, all the way back to TSR, only about 17 years before Wizards of the Coast Existed.

  3. I am far less interested in hypothesizing about what kinds of games were played with them. What I want to know is, when is someone going to produce some resin replicas of these guys?

  4. It could definitely be for gaming. At that time the Romans were using six-sided dice for gambling games, and the Egyptians had had board games for thousands of years.

    • Yes, and it was also common to use Greek letters to represent numbers, where alpha = 1, beta = 2, … iota = 10, kappa = 20, … ro = 100, sigma = 200 … omega = 800. Sometimes the archaic letter sampi was used for 900. But presumably our die only goes to sigma (200) because it only has 20 sides. Only alpha thru kappa are visible in the picture.

  5. The Greeks and Egyptians of that era didn't write in clay — they generally used papyrus with ink. Clay was more of a Mesopotamian medium. They used a stylus to make cuneiform impressions, but even in Mesopotamia most writing by this period had switched over to the alphabetic scripts of Aramaic and Greek, which didn't generally use clay as a medium.

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