The board game most favoured
by the ancient Egyptians was Senet, the game of 'passing'. Boards
and other equipment for the game were found in the tombs of commoners,
nobles and kings from the earliest dynasties, and remains of elaborate
boards, as well as crude grids or sketches, reflect its popularity among
all classes of society.
Two people played Senet
on a board marked with thirty squares arranged in three parallel rows of
ten. The number of playing pieces varied from five to ten, and each
opponent advanced by throws of marked sticks, used in the same manner as
dice. The object of the game was to advance along the board, passing an
opponent by blocking or eliminating the latter's pieces.
During the New Kingdom,
tomb walls bore representations of Senet players, for the game
had acquired a religious-magical meaning, symbolizing the passage of the
deceased through the netherworld, his resurrection dependent upon his
winning the Senet game. The last five squares were given new
markings, reflecting the desired arrival in the divine domain of
eternity. This board is an example of such a funerary Senet.
Faience was the most common
material for the Senet boards, but examples made of wood also
exist, some including drawers for the pieces.