New York Museum Boasts 2,000-Year-Old Ancient Egyptian d20

Mike Kayatta

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Aug 2, 2011
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New York Museum Boasts 2,000-Year-Old Ancient Egyptian d20



Next time you swing your +3 flaming longsword at an owlbear, you may be following in the footsteps of pharaohs.

If Scooby Doo is to be believed, the ancient Egyptians spent most of their time cursing mummies, booby-trapping pyramids, and summoning Anubis. According to more recent advances in anthropology, however, many of them were just everyday Joes (in this case, maybe Thutmoses) hanging out, just trying to have a good time like everyone else in history. Perhaps that explains this nifty ancient d20 straight out of Egypt's Ptolemaic period currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The die is made of a mineral called serpentine, an ultramafic rock fairly common to ancient architecture and sculpture. The carvings on each face are Greek in origin-there's pretty clearly a lambda, delta, beta, theta, and some others in the pictures-which depending on context can either represent a letter or number. Unfortunately, we're not exactly how this particular die was meant to be used, but do know the Egyptians were pretty significant gamers, as far as ancient civilizations go.

While housed at the Met, the d20 is sadly not currently on display [http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/100008377?img=1]. I'm sure if you asked one of the curators, he or she would tell you something about exhibit schedules and space considerations, but I like to think those jerks are just in the back room during lunch breaks trying to roll natural kappas in their ongoing game of Sarcophagi and Sphinxes.

Source: CNET [http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57547697-1/ancient-d20-die-emerges-from-the-ashes-of-time/?subj=news&tag=title]

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Nimzar

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Nov 30, 2009
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"You are on the east bank of the Nile. You hear a rustling sound behind you. Roll initiative."

Where can we get a replica?

digital warrior said:
DO NOT ROLL IT! THE ANCIENT MAGICS WILL BE UNLEASHED!
No.

DO ROLL IT! THE ANCIENT MAGICS WILL BE UNLEASHED!
 

ShirowShirow

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Oct 14, 2010
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Hell yeah geeks have ancient precedent!

I now imagine some eccentric billionaire buying it for his D&D campaign.
 

1337mokro

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Baldry said:
So instead of Dungeons and Dragons was it Pyramids and Sphinxes?
The mage in your party passed the Knowledge Arcane check.

He tells you that it would still be Dungeons and Dragons, or more like Tombs and Dragons.

The ancient Egyptians had allot of Dragons too.

They even had their own mythology featuring them like Apep, the dragon/snake that lay in wait to attempt to kill Horus every time he died and had to pass through the underworld, which was everyday at sunset. They explained the Red colour of the sun rising at dusk as the blood of that dragon being wounded and retreating.

What do you want to do next?
 

CrazyGirl17

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Sep 11, 2009
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Neat! From what I can remember from a couple books I read, the Ancient Egyptians were big on games. Ever seen Yu-Gi-Oh?

...Okay, bad example.
 
Dec 14, 2009
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It appears that you're getting mind-flayed by a giant cthulusphinx.

Roll a Will Save.

...


Oooooooh, you landed on lambda?

You're shit out of luck sunshine
 

Scarim Coral

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So wait, the Egyptians were into D&D back then? Awesome!

What's next? They will find a tabletop game and some figures to go alongside it?
 

Orbot_Vectorman

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May 11, 2009
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Scarim Coral said:
So wait, the Egyptians were in D&D back then? Awesome!

What's next? They will find a tabletop game and some figures to go alongside it?
That would be freaking awesome! and if not, I'm sure some brilliant artist/ carpenter will build some to go with it.
 

Aris Khandr

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frizzlebyte said:
Twenty bucks says Thinkgeek will have a replica of this for sale within six months.
I hope so. Or Chessex. Someone needs to make a replica, because I WANT IT!
 

Twilight_guy

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Nov 24, 2008
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It'd be hilarious if it turns out that this was used to determine who they were going to kill each day. Number 4, please step up here!

I wonder if the default shape of an Egyptian die is a D20. The modern die is usually a D6 but ancient cultures could have had entirely different norms.
 

Quaxar

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Sep 21, 2009
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Twilight_guy said:
I wonder if the default shape of an Egyptian die is a D20. The modern die is usually a D6 but ancient cultures could have had entirely different norms.
Astonishingly, the Ancient Egyptians, much like us, had a base 10 number system but their regular dice tended to not be a whole lot different. In the spoiler is an example of ancient Egyptian dice but it could also be a modern kid's work.
http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/games/pictures/egytpdice.jpg

The Sumer culture around 3000 BC already had dice practically looking like ours, even with the eye thing where the opposing sides add up to 7. But they had a base 6 number system so it'd be the most reasonable thing to invent a 6-sided die.
Another fun fact: the oldest non-"regular" die ever found is from about 2600 BC, Sumer as well and is actually a d4.

Aaaaand I'm still going! At around 1500 BC in India they started to independently from the Sumers develop dice for ritual and casual gaming where they used the nuts of the <url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminalia_bellerica>beleric tree, which are five-sided. This is also referenced in the Indian epic Mahabharata. And in another Indian epic, the <url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jataka>Jataka, written around 400 BC, they refer to the use of four-sided dice.