When we think of ancient civilization we often imagine them as living lives so different to ours that they might as well be another species. While it is clear that people did not have the internet 1700 years ago, where they really so different. The discovery of a board game in Norway suggests not.
The board game discovered comprised of an elongated dice that was six-sided, as dice are today, but with four sides far longer than the modern version. There were also 18 game chips found. The discovery dates back to 300 AD, in the middle of the Roman Iron Age which lasted from 1 AD to 400 AD.
This discovery shows that people enjoyed playing boardgames back then as well. The game is not that different from chess or backgammon and is very similar to a game called Hnefatafl that was incredibly popular during the Viking Age. Hnefatafl consists of one side having a King and his loyal guards while the opponent is a group of rebels. The rebels try to attack and capture the King while the King tries to escape to safety under the protection of his guards. One corner of a board is deemed the safety point and if a King reaches there he wins, if he does not then he is captured and loses.
´The discovery of the game sheds light on the reach of the Roman Empire to Norway at the time. At the time of the Roman Iron Age, there was an important trade route that linked the very North of Norway, through Scandanavia, down into Europe. The trade route was called Nordvegen and is where the country Norway got its name. This game was discovered in a burial mound located along the trade route. People owned and controlled different sections of this route and would make people pay taxes to use their part of the passageway. Often people of importance were buried along the route as a display of authority.
It is likely that one wealthy individual was buried close to the trade route along with his most treasured possessions, including a game. Pottery, needles, glass, and bone fragments were all found buried as well. While today a game is looked at as a waste of time and the sign of a distracted mind back then it was a status symbol. If you played games then you were wealthy enough to afford them, wealthy enough to afford the free time to play them and smart enough to understand them. This was a great way of showing off to peers and to lower classes.
While only a small discovery of a game it is clear it has informed a lot about how life was during this time. It shows the growing relationship between Rome and the limits of Europe at the time. It provides an insight into daily life for the wealthy 1,700 years ago and it highlights the similarities that exist between then and now.
Experts say that the discovery is very rare and is one of 15 dice that has been found in Norway to date. These significant findings continue to show the significance of gaming to the culture back then. We often think that gaming is a relatively new idea, something that we have allowed ourselves to enjoy in modern times thanks to our success. In reality, gaming has been around for thousands of years and shows that while our history books often focus on the work conducted by ancient civilizations, their day to day life was not so different from our own. Seeing the similarities throughout time should provide us a moment to pause and realize how similar the entire human race is both across countries and over the span of time. Instead of looking for differences, we should look for more common ground.