Ancient Sumerian Games for Children

Written by asa jomard
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Ancient Sumerian Games for Children
Several hundred thousand Sumerian writing tablets have been found by archaeologists. ( Images)

Ancient Sumerians lived in southern Mesopotamia from 3000 to 2000 B.C. They developed a wedge-shaped system of writing called cuneiform. They turned reed stalks that grew in or near water into pointed pens, which they used to make impressions on clay. Sumerians also liked to play games; game boards have been found in the royal tombs at Ur, a prominent Sumerian historical site.

Game of Ur

The Game of Ur is a variation of the Egyptian game of Senet, but there are fewer cells on the Ur boards. Since the game is not played today, it is difficult to know how the game was played. New rules have been invented based on the knowledge that historians have about other ancient games. The game of Ur is an ancestor of the backgammon group of games. The name of the ancient game is unknown, though it is now called the Royal Game of Ur. An unusually shaped special board is used, and various patterns on the boards have been found. Yet, one consistent factor has been that five of the squares on the board have rosettes inscribed in them. It is agreed that these squares have a special meaning.

How to Play the Royal Game

The Royal Game is a dice challenge, but there is more than chance involved in playing this game. It is a race game where you chase each other around, and clever placing of your pieces can greatly enhance your chances to win. The boards found at Ur had small round counters, each with five white dots on them, seven light and seven dark. There were also six pyramidal dices, which are used as binary lots. When you lose your turn, you have to step back three spaces. The winner is the player who has captured all of his opponent's men. You can find modern versions of this ancient Sumerian game in a special game shop or online. You can also play the game online at Tombs Challenge.


Boxing was added to the Greek Olympic Games in 688 B.C. Yet, other forms of boxing had been carried out before in both Sumer and Egypt. Fighting with fists was a sport about 6,000 years ago and a relief carving with fist fighting was found in Sumer. The carving is from around the third millennium B.C. In the carving you can see that the two contestants are bare fisted. Boxing is also mentioned in the Sumerian "Epic of Gilgamesh," which is one of the earliest works of literature. Gilgamesh was a king of Uruk and the tales has been found on 12 clay tablets. The tale also mentions horse racing.


Several Sumerian sculptures have been found, most of them of doll-sized humans or deities. Precious objects were buried with the dead and doll-like sculptures have been found in graves at Ur, Eridu and Umma al-Ajarib. The figuriens were often made of stone or alabaster and they had owl-like eyes. The figurine's body postures were stiff, yet often ornate. Male statues were often standing or sitting with hands clasped, as though they were praying. They wore skirts but were naked above the waist.

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