It seems as though the globe is expanding with new technological innovations every single day. From hovering cars and self-driving vehicles to the renaissance of virtual reality and the emerging metaverse, technology has integrated itself into daily life in ways previously only dreamt up in science fiction. However, for as much as things evolve and change, some things don’t, especially those things that represent the essence of humanity. Believe it or not, one of those things happens to be the human affinity to play games. According to Ars Technica, evidence of such was uncovered after a team of archeologists dug up a 4000-year-old board game.
The discovery was made in Oman’s Qumayrah Valley village of Ayn Bani Saidah. The area happens to be a goldmine for artifacts that date back to the Iron and Bronze ages because the region has largely remained unstudied. In an effort to learn more about the region Sultan al Bakri, who is the director general of antiquities at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in Oman, teamed up with University of Warsaw academic Piotr Bielinski. The 4000-year-old game that was discovered was made entirely of stone that had been crafted with divots that were likely meant to indicate where an object in the game was meant to be placed.
The detection of the 4000-year-old game in Oman, while remarkable, is actually not unique. Finding games that were played by ancient peoples are rather frequent archeological discoveries. For instance, archeologists have found numerous games from the ancient Egyptian societies of Senet and Mehen. What their breakthrough work really serves to show is just how important social play is to human function. It is truly amazing to extract the commonalities, made possible by these discoveries, between then and now.
What’s more, is that scientists believe that the 4000-year-old game uncovered in Oman was likely a predecessor to the archaic games discovered in places like Egypt and even Rome. However, the late English Archeologist Sir Leonard Woolley discovered a game that even pre-dated the one in Oman. Between the years 1922 and 1924 Woolley and his team excavated a site that contained gameboards and pieces from what is considered to be one of the world’s oldest civilizations – Ur. Woolley’s findings dated back to 3,000 BCE, meaning that his discovery today is roughly upwards of 5,000 years old.
The work of the team in Oman and their triumph in uncovering the 4000-year-old game is really just the tip of the iceberg. Because of their diligence and their dedication to learning more about the peoples of the Iron and Bronze ages, they have also been able to excavate large structures that could provide more clues to how those early societies functioned. It is fun to look toward the future, however, it is also so important to look back at the past. Similar to how prior experiences in life can help shape someone’s decisions in the present, looking back at humanity’s ancient roots can be a vital asset and inform the way modern society directs itself in the years to come.