By: Miranda Temme
Two lot-boards, one connected with the 12 signs for the zodiac, contained instructions on the back about how the game was played. We learn how to draw the 84 sections on the ground and the names of the pieces (eagle, raven, rooster, swallow and na unidentified bird). In fact, lot boards used a word for game piece, "doll figurine", like man in chessman. The pieces were moved when dice made from astragals (the joint bones of oxen or sheep) were thrown. The game, called asha is still played today by women in the Jewish community of Cochin in Southern India.
In general, games were accompanied by objects that were thrown and objects that were moved. Thrown objects included disc, probably of Indian origin, which have been dated to all periods and found at sites throughout Mesopotamia. The dice are cubes of bone, clay, stone and even glass. They have the numbers 1 through 6 incised on them. However, unlike modern dice, on which the sum of the opposite sides is always 7, ancient dice have opposite sides which are usually numbered consecutively. Other objects thrown included joint bones, throw sticks and tones. Stones described as desirable or undesirable were put as lots into a container, drawn and played once certain prayers were made to the gods to oversee the game. Moved objects included the game piece referred to as a "doll figurine", as well as birds, dogs, circular pieces, and other shapes such as small clay cones and pyramids.
Over five thousand years ago, people living in Mesopotamia developed a form of writing to record and communicate different types of information. The earliest writing was based on pictograms. Pictograms were used to communicate basic information about crops and taxes. Over time, the need for writing changed and the signs developed into a script we call cuneiform.
The area did not supply enough rainfall for crops so irrigation was needed from the river. The Nile river helped by providing silt whenever there was a flood. The Nile floods between June and October. Depth of the flood is usually about 45 ft. They would plant and grow things such as fruit and vegetables.
About 60 different number signs. They used one system for counting discrete objects such as animals, and other systems for measuring areas and volumes.