GAMING PIECES: 
ASTRAGALI AND DICE


 

Knucklebones (astragali), were an essential part of many ancient games: αστραγαλισμοσ  was played using four astragali with different values on each side (see # 1081; 1082 with lead studs indicating the value of each side); πευτελιξοι  was played with five astragali, simultaneously thrown into the air to be caught on the back of the hand. Natural knucklebone was usually cut down, grinded, drilled and filled with lead.
See: Herod. 1, 94; Plut. De fort.Alex., 11,6; Hampe R. Die Stele aus Pharsalos, 107. Berliner Winckelmann Programm, Berlin 1951, p. 18; Peters B. G. Processing of bone in Ancient States of Black Sea. Moscow, 1986, p. 78-84, tbl. XVI, XVII; Becq de Fouquieres L. Les jeux des ancients. Paris, 1869, p. 51-54; Schmidt E. Spielzeug und Spiele der Kinder im klassischen Altertum, Meiningen, 1971; Davidson G.R. Corinth, vol XII, The Minor Objects. Princeton, 1952, p.222; Hesperia, XVI, 1947, p.241, pl. LXI; Delos, XVIII, pp 332f; Robinson, Excavation at Olyntus, X, pp. 502-504.




1071.jpg (82602 bytes)
1071
Bone astragalus
IV-I centuries B.C.
Pair of opposite sides grinded flat
H. 20 mm; L. 33 mm
$ 300 


1080.jpg (45293 bytes)
1080
Bone astragalus
II c. B.C.- IV c. A.D.
Two holes through
H. 18 mm; L. 31 mm
$ 250 


1075.jpg (45389 bytes)
1075
Bone astragalus
II c. B.C.- IV c. A.D.
Two holes through
H. 18 mm; L. 33 mm
$ 150


1081.jpg (43504 bytes)
1081
II c. B.C. - IV c. A.D.
Bone astragalus
Each side filled with lead studs
indicating value
H. 17 mm; L. 32 mm
$ 300 


1082.jpg (43954 bytes)
1082
Bone astragalus
II c. B.C. - IV c. A.D.
Filled with lead studs
indicating value
H. 17 mm; L. 32 mm
$  200


1074.jpg (63190 bytes)
1074
Bone astragalus
I - IV c. A.D.
One side engraved with  cross-hatched lines
H. 17 mm; L. 31 mm
$ 250 


1072.jpg (101740 bytes)
1072
Bone astragalus
I - IV c. A.D.
Drilled partially, engraved 
with "+" on one side
H. 20 mm; L. 31 mm
$ 250 



1073.jpg (90860 bytes)


1073
Bone astragalus, III - II c. B.C. 
One side grinded flat. Perpendicular curvature
side bears a two line inscription:
ΗΡΑΚ / ΛΗCΔΙΟС. Dedication to Heracles 
( ΗΡΑΚΛΗΣ  )  and Zeus ( ΔΙΟΣ ).  
H. 16 mm; L. 32 mm
$ 1000 
SOLD

 

The lead astragali below are not gaming pieces but rather votive offerings.

 

1083.jpg (42646 bytes)
1083
VI c. B.C. - IV c. B.C.
Lead astragalus
H. 7 mm; L. 23 mm
$ 200
1084.jpg (54400 bytes)
1084
VI c. B.C. - IV c. B.C.
Lead astragalus
H. 5 mm; L. 27 mm
$ 200
1085.jpg (56638 bytes)
1085
VI c. B.C. - IV c. B.C.
Lead astragalus
H. 6 mm; L. 27 mm
$ 200

 

 

Pausanias stated that ancient Greeks played dice since the Trojan War. Tessera had numbers on each side from 1 to 6. In Roman times and later, values placed on opposite sides add up to seven. Talus had only four numbered sides: 1, 3, 4, 6. The best throw was venus: all four tali fall to expose different numbers; the worse throw was canis when all exposed numbers are the same. 
See: Paus., II, 20,3; X,31,1; Aeschin. Contra Timarch., 59; Robinson, Excavation at Olyntus, X, p. 504, note 78; Suet. Aug., 71 1-4; Amm. Marc., XXVII, 4, 28; Daremberg and Saglio, Dictionnaire, svv. Ludi, Latrunculi, Tessera; Pauly-Wissova, Realencyklopädie, s.v. Lusoria Tabula; Peters B. G. Processing of bone in Ancient States of Black Sea. Moscow, 1986, p. 88-90, tbl. XIX.

 

1059.jpg (47592 bytes)
1059         SOLD
Greek Bone die
IV-II century B.C.
Opposite side's values: 
6-2; 5-3; 4-1
14 x 15 x 15 mm



1062.jpg (43252 bytes)
1062
Roman ivory die
I-IV century A.D.
Opposite side's values:
6-1; 5-2; 0-3
One side is blank
10 x 10 x 10 mm
$ 250

1060.jpg (32523 bytes)
1060         SOLD
Roman ivory die
I-II century A.D.
Opposite side's values: 
6-5; 4-3; 2-1
8 x 9 x 9 mm
 


1064.jpg (32347 bytes)
1064          SOLD
Roman ivory die
I-II century A.D.
Opposite side's values: 
6-5; 4-3; 2-1
9 x 9 x 9 mm
 


1063.jpg (41938 bytes)
1063              SOLD
Roman bone die
I-II century A.D.
Opposite side's values: 
6-1; 5-4; 3-2
11 x 7 x 7 mm
 


1061.jpg (50521 bytes)
1061
Roman bone die
I-IV century A.D.
Opposite side's values:
6-1; 5-2; 4-3
12 x 9 x 9 mm
$ 200


1065.jpg (50046 bytes)
1065
Bone die
Blank sides
11 x 12 x 11 mm
$ 75




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