Roman or much earlier
Re: Old Dice bead -- alipersia Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: will Post Reply
05/30/2019, 20:43:02

Hi Ali,

It's vey good to see that you're well. Yes, it's very possible that the dice may be a Roman example that has been traded into Iran. But it could also be from the Indus Valley culture where dice probably originated in the late 4th millennium BCE. They seem to have been used for playing a form of backgammon, which probably started there, too.

I'll attach an image of an Indus Valley dice that's in the museum in Lahore; it's dated to 2500 BCE. Like most Indus Valley dice it's made of terracotta, but I've seen several in bone and occasionally in shell, and one that was bronze. The bone, shell and bronze examples have all used the circle-dot motif, which is used for decoration on a lot of Indus Valley objects, as well as on many of their etched carnelian beads.

But closer to home - your home! - dice have also been found in Iran at the amazing early 3rd Millennium BCE city at Shahr-e-Sookhteh on the banks of the Helmand River in Southeast Iran near the Afghan border. I passed through there once a long, long time ago, but don't remember any dice!

One factor that may help in determining where yours comes from originally is the 2-face of the dice. I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else, but I've noticed on all the Indus Valley dice that I've seen (as well as on later Bactrian and Gandharan examples) that the 2 dots are always vertical (or horizontal), as they are in the illustration from Lahore, whereas on most Roman dice they are at an angle to the frame. Actually, this is still true in many modern dice that you find in South, Central and East Asia (the not-for-export ones anyway), in contrast to those manufactured in Europe or North America.

All the best,

Will

IV_dice_LahoreMuseum_2,500BCE.jpg (32.3 KB)  


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