The Senet Game The Game Board of King Tutankhamun
This is the Senet game of king Tutankhamun. 4 complete game boards and parts of another 2 boards were found in the Annexe of the tomb of king Tutankhamun. The Annexe also produced large number of playing pieces: the casting sticks as well as 7 knucklebones.
Judging from the number of boards in the tomb, we suggest that it was one of the favourite games for the king. (because he had about 6 games)
Significance of this game:
The name of this game snt means to pass, which refers to passing in the netherworld or the after life. However, this idea of the passing to the netherworld developed since the New Kingdom when it acquired a magical-religious value and in the introductory formula in Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead, it was considered essential that the deceased played a game against an invisible opponent to ensure his own survival.
It was a popular game from the earliest times in Egypt that’s why it was included in the funerary furniture.
We have some proofs which indicate that it was played everywhere and by all social levels from the Archaic Period onwards:
1- Parts of a Senet game was discovered at the tomb of king Djet of the 1st Dynasty (displayed at the ground floor of the Egyptian Museum in the showcase of Games from the Archaic Period)
2- The official Hesy-Re has a scene in his tomb at Saqqara showing him playing Senet.
3- Prince Re-Hotep mentions the Senet game in his list of funerary objects.
4- We found some ostraca belonging to the builders of the pyramids showing them while playing Senet.
5- Ramses III was also shown in his temple at Madinet Habu while playing Senet with his daughters.
When Carter saw it, he said that it looked like a modern Egyptian game called (SEGA), while non-Egyptians like to compare it with Chess.
How to play Senet:
Nobody knows exactly how it was played but there are some suggestions.
It consists of 3 rows of 10 squares; each player had an equal number of playing pieces probably about 5 or 7 pieces different from their opponent’s pieces. These pieces were generally pawn-like or reel-shaped. Most probably they were placed inside the drawer of this game, but maybe these pieces were not the original ones of the game and most probably the original ones were stolen because they were made out of precious metals like gold or silver.
Movement of the pieces was dictated by throwing the knucklebones or the casting (throwing) sticks; they act like our modern day dice .
The main idea of this game was to move the gaming pieces over the 30 squares in a backward “S” shape. The aim was to eliminate the pieces of the other player. Most of the squares are plain except for the final 5 squares which were inscribed with special characters maybe to explain some rules of this game, the mw sign (water) for example might have symbolized something dangerous or other signs could be of advantage to the player like the nfrw sign. Certainly it was a game of chance, the moves being determined by the throw either of knucklebones or of four casting sticks, both of which were found in the tomb.
The casting sticks were of two kinds, one pair having ends in the form of the tips of human fingers and the ends of the other being carved in the form of a long-eared canine animal, probably a fox. Both pairs consist of black ebony in the upper half and white ivory in the lower half. Perhaps the number of points scored from a cast depended on the number of sticks that finished with the white or black side uppermost when they were cast.
This game is made out of wood veneered with ebony, and the 30 squares are inlaid with ivory, it is mounted upon an ebony stand with its legs taking the shape of animal’s (probably feline) feet each resting on a gilded drum. Beneath the drums is an ebony sledge. At one end of the board there is a small drawer for the gaming pieces.
The inscribed band of hieroglyphs on the sides are wishing the king life and prosperity, and mentioning his titles and epithets.
The Tjaw Game
On the other side of the board game, there is another game called Tjaw, a word which means ‘thieves’. It consists of 20 squares, a middle row of 12 squares flanked by 4 squares on each side at one end. The way of playing it is also unknown.