Egyptian board games: senet and mancala
Ancient Egyptian games were a lot like some games people still play today. Some Egyptian games were traditional African games.
The Egyptians learned other games from their West Asian neighbors.
People in ancient Egypt played games with pieces like checkers or mancala or senet. Senet might be the oldest board game (or mancala might be).
How to play Senet
The Ancient Egyptian game of senet was a game for two people. You each got five pieces, and to win the game you had to be the first to get all of your pieces off the board. The board had three rows of “houses” (spaces), with ten houses in each row. You started with one player’s pieces on the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth house, and the other player’s pieces on the second, fourth, sixth, eighth, and tenth houses.
Instead of rolling dice, you tossed four sticks to decide how many spaces you could move on each turn.
The sticks were black on one side. If they landed all four black, you moved five spaces and go again. No blacks? Move four spaces and go again. If they landed three black, move three spaces and lose your next turn. Two black? two spaces and lose your next turn. Only one black? one space and go again.
Only one piece can be on a space at a time. But there are more special rules. You can read about them here.
Jacks and dice
They played games with dice, too.
One popular board game was Hounds and Jackals (though we don’t really know what the Egyptians called it). You threw knucklebones to decide how many holes to move your piece, and the pieces were tall sticks with the heads of dogs or jackals.
Ancient Egyptian toys
Egyptian kids also had toys to play with. They had clay rattles and little animals and people shaped out of clay. If you could afford them, you could also get wooden toys. Some wooden toys had moving parts, like a hippopotamus with jaws that could open and close.
Ancient Egyptian boys and girls were outside nearly all the time, because their houses were small, dark, and crowded.
Ancient Egyptian kids liked to play running and jumping games. Boys and girls loved to swim in the river to cool off and get clean; they knew how to swim the breast stroke and the crawl stroke.
They also liked to wrestle and box, and dance in circles. On the right, the two boys are wrestling. One boy is sitting on the other boy’s head.
The girls called one dance “pressing the grapes“; that’s the dance in the picture to the left. They’re holding hands in a circle.
Ancient Egyptian ball games and juggling
Did you find out what you wanted to know about ancient Egyptian games? Let us know in the comments!