In true Jumanji style, archaeologists have come across a mysterious board game that hasn’t been played for almost 1,500 years. The game and its assortment of numerous pieces were discovered in a 2300-year old Chinese tomb, which is located near Qingzhou City, a county-level city in the Shandong Province of China. To that end, the researchers found at least 21 game pieces with their specific painted numbers. These were accompanied by a broken tile which must have been a part of the actual game board, and a 14-sided dice crafted exquisitely from animal tooth. Twelve of this 14 sides once again consist of numbers, and they range conventionally from 1 to 6, while two of the faces were kept blank.
Judging from these numerical attributes and the extant artifacts, the researchers have hypothesized that the board game might have actually been called ‘bo‘ (or ‘liubo‘). Interestingly, it is still unknown regarding how the game was played in some parts, with different rule systems being a possibility considering people nigh stopped playing the game for almost 1,500 years. But a 2200-year old poem, written by one Song Yu, gives us some idea about the gameplay –
Then, with bamboo dice and ivory pieces, the game of Liu Bo is begun; sides are taken; they advance together; keenly they threaten each other. Pieces are kinged, and the scoring doubled. Shouts of ‘five white!’ arise.
And as for the tomb itself, it pertains to an advanced level of engineering with two large ramps leading downwards into the expansive burial chamber. By expansive, we mean the area of the tomb goes on for a passage of around 100 m (330 ft), all of which was originally draped by some burial mound. Unfortunately, given its grandiose credentials, the burial complex did attract the attention of robbers – so much so, that the looters managed to dig 26 shafts into the chamber for their illegal purposes. Oddly enough, one of these shafts even yielded a skeleton in a curled-up posture. The archaeologists think that it was probably a robber (of undetermined gender) who was given a quick ‘makeshift’ burial by the fellow colleagues while robbing the chamber.
The findings inside the Qingzhou City tomb (originally excavated in 2004) were reported in the journal Wenwu in 2014, and then translated into English and published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.
All Images Courtesy: Chinese Cultural Relics