Friday, August 29, 2008

Neolithic Mancala

There is a game played in most of the world called Mancala. It is a “count and capture” game that involves moving stones around a board made up of holes. You can see an explanation of various forms of rules of the game here.

Ireland has some of the best preserved ancient tombs and building sin the world. This means we have some of the oldest known versions of games in the world. Boards of a game called “windmill” have been cut into the temple at Kurna, Egypt (~1440 BC). A version of this game called “Nine Man Morris” is still played. Tic Tac Toe can be considered a very basic version of it also. The earliest known depiction of this game is a bronze age cemetery in Ballinderry Ireland.

Boards of nine man morris have also been found in roman age sites.

Irish 5000 years old Mancala boards should look like this. On a flat surface. Two rows of holes, probably six holes (possibly more) long with slightly larger holes at either end. Possibly you would see a few together as mancala is currently a social game and tends to be played in groups.

We tend to view megalithic carvings as having a religious purpose. It is quite possible that megaliths were gathering points and as such social games took place there. So next time your at a megalith have a look for a game board.


Patrick Zombie said...

I was playing Mancala with my roommate the other day and we got to a point where if one person went first, they won. We spent hours trying to figure out a counter-strategy.

It's impossible. We looked up Mancala on the internet and apparently another group had already gone through all the permutations possible with a computer. The strategy we came up with in unbeatable if the player knows how to play.

I'm surprised Mancala lasted this long, honestly. It's a game that can be rigged easily.

The Beer Nut said...

It just goes to demonstrate one of the universal truths of history: in the olden days, people were stupid.

David Curran said...

The solved version of Mancala is awari/oware that has some simplified rules.

Even with fairly simple games like some versions of Tafl you can change the game to say that "I will win in X moves" "I will win in Y moves" etc.

Solved version of Mancala paper is here.

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