Artifacts in ancient Tripolis show that backgammon dates back 2,000 years

Archaeological excavations in the western province of Denizli’s Buldan district have unearthed many finds related to “ludus duodecim scriptorum,” a Roman-era version of the popular game backgammon.

Associate Professor Bahadır Duman, a member of Pamukkale University’s Archaeology Department and head of the excavations at the ancient city Tripolis, said they started a new season of excavations with a team of 50 people in Tripolis.

Duman said the restoration work in the columned gallery around the 3,500-square-meter market place and on the columned street has been finished and is open to visitors.

Three agoras and many market places have also been found in the ancient city.

“One of the social activities in the agora was the popular Roman-era game ‘ludus duodecim scriptorum,’ which is similar to today’s backgammon. Like today, sellers working in the market place played backgammon in their spare time. Excavations unearthed many finds related to this game, which was played with three dice.

[Among] the most important findings are the marble plaques on which this game was played. We can say this was an early version of backgammon,” he said.

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Tripolis is located within the historic Lydian borders at the junction point of Phrygia, Caria and Lydia.

During their archaeological digs, the team came across a fountain and then accelerated the excavation in the area to unearth the fountain, believing it would be “one of the most important finds this year,” Duman said.

However, unearthing the monumental fountain caused financial difficulties and they are seeking a sponsor, as restoration activities have been their primary focus in the first half of the year.

“There is a huge monumental fountain structure that was discovered last year and completely unearthed this year. It is 31 meters long, 7 meters wide, 14 meters high and three floors. It is one of the rarest structures in Anatolia,” said Duman.

“The inscription that we found in the structure writes that the fountain was built at the end of the 2nd century in memory of the Roman emperor Hadrian. It dates back nearly 2,000 years and we have four sculptures that we unearthed last year during the excavations in the field of the mountain. We hope we will find more in this year’s excavations,” he added.


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