A History of the Game – Part One

By Jana Bohrer

Excavations of the Persian city of Shahr-e Sukhteh (literally “The Burnt City”) in Iran have shown that backgammon existed there around 3000 BC.  This recently deciphered clay tablet found buried with alongside an ancient stone set, indicates that the city acquired its name following a chouette that went terribly awry.

clay tablet

Translated, it says:

And then Asurbanipal rose up and smote the captain Yazdegerd upon the head with his cube saying, “Why didst thou double for me when I was in the men’s room?  Dost thou not know  how to count pips?!?  We are cubits behind!!!!”

Whereupon Yazdegerd became wroth and gave Asurbanipal a noogie.  And Asurbanipal’s beard didst catch fire in the candle flame during the noogie.  And as it had not rained in the city for 40 days and 40 nights, the city didst burn to the ground.

Interestingly, this is also the first known written use of the word “noogie”.

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