Is it just me, or do these look familiar?

These two little gems were discovered as a pair in a Roman military encampment near the Danube River, dated to 1st-3rd Century AD. What blows me away is that they look *exactly* like modern ones, right down to the layout of the pips. We’ve been using the exact same design since at least then. In fact, the Romans gave us the word “die”, at least in that context. They’re surprisingly small, you could fit them both on a nickel, with a little room left over.

1st-3rd Century AD Roman Gaming Dice

1st-3rd Century AD Roman Gaming Dice

They are made from animal bone, although I have no idea what type. There’s a little bit of matrix (read: dirt) still embedded in the pips.

They were found as a pair, but the one on the right is about 10% smaller. The dealer that I bought these from had several others, but these were the nicest. When I show these to friends who are gamers, they flip out. It turns out, the romans also had D20, which the gamer friends are usually even more impressed with. I’m not a gamer though, so meh. If I’m rollin’ dice, there better be money involved.

The guy I bought these from also had a set of dice from the same era with two 4s. I dunno if it was supposed to be a trick die, or if it was for a different game that needed two 4s. Normally, I’d gravitate towards the more unusual object, but in this case, the normal set was abundantly spiffy on its own.

Apparently, it was quite common for dice from the period to be loaded. I’m sure most of them probably have small biases, just because they lacked the precision to make sure that every face is exactly the same size, perfectly flat, and with the center of gravity in the dead center. What I wouldn’t give for a set of genuinely loaded trick roman dice though. Hell, maybe these are, and I just don’t know it.

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6 thoughts on “Is it just me, or do these look familiar?

  1. I came here from a link from Mo, and I love this blog. I like to collect odd things, too. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

    • Well, it’s tough, actually. I’m trying to decide between a piece of radioactive earth from the world’s first nuclear explosion, a fossilized walrus penis, or an oil lamp from the lifetime of His Jesusness. You can understand my dilemma… 😦

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