The history of dice

According to this report, Jelmer Eerkens (UC Davis) and Alex de Voogt (American Museum of Natural History) assembled and analyzed a set of 110 carefully dated, cube-shaped dice and made the following main findings (their full paper is available here):

• Dice made before 400, or in Roman times, are highly variable in shape, size, material and configuration of numbers.

• Dice are very rare between 400 and 1100, corresponding to the Dark Ages.

• When dice reappear around 1100 they are predominantly in the “primes” configuration, where opposite numbers tally to prime numbers (1-2; 3-4; 5-6), a numbering style that was also popular in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Early medieval dice also tend to be quite small relative to their Roman predecessors.

• Around 1450 the numbering system quickly changed to “sevens” where opposite sides add up to seven (6-1; 5-2; 3-4). Dice also became highly standardized in shape, and also were made larger again.

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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2 Responses to The history of dice

  1. Abogada Guerra says:

    Interesting! Thank you for sharing. We (humans) have been roliin’ the dice.

    • Yes, except for the so-called “Dark Age”, gambling has been an important source of play and entertainment … and the source of modern probability theory (with Fermat and Pascal’s original solution to the “problem of the points” … look it up !)

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