Dig Turns Up Ancient Chinese Game Piece

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November 22, 2015

A 14-face die is among the pieces from a board game found in a 2,300-year-old tomb in China.

Archaeologists digging in the heavily looted tomb near Qingzhou City also found a broken tile that was once part of a game board and nearly two dozen rectangular game pieces that had numbers painted on them.

Twelve of the die’s 14 faces are numbered 1 through 6, each number appearing twice in all. The other two faces are blank.

The game is thought to have been called “bo,” or “liubo,” the archaeologists said. The game is thought to have been last played 1,500 years ago. A poem written 700 years before that references a game with a setup and pieces similar to the ones found most recently in the tomb, and the poet who wrote that poem used the name “Liu Bo” in referring to that game.

The tomb, which is more than 300 feet long, was once covered with a burial mound and still has ramps leading to stairs that lead into the burial chamber. Inside the burial chamber are a series of pits that hold grave goods.

The dig turned up 26 shafts into the tomb, dug by looters. In one of the shafts was a skeleton; archaeologists said that that skeleton could have been the remains of a looter.

The tomb could have been the resting place of leading figures from the ancient state of Qi, archaeologists said. That state was conquered in 221 B.C. by China’s first emperor, Shi-huangdi, who went on to unify the country and build the Terracotta Army.

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