Archaeologists Find Roman Iron Age Board Game in Norway


"A status symbol

The bone debris, carefully decorated pottery and burnt glass indicate the person cremated here was likely of high status. But it's the gaming pieces that highlight this more than anything else.

“These are status objects that testify to contact with the Roman Empire, where they liked to enjoy themselves with board games. People who played games like this were local aristocracy or upper class. The game showed that you had the time, profits and ability to think strategically,” said Ramstad...

The gaming discovery

The pieces are of a very rare type, known to be from the Roman Iron Age, dated to around AD 300. The haul included 13 whole and five broken game chips along with an almost completely intact elongated dice.

Two iron age game pieces discovered in Norway

The dice is marked with number symbols in the form of point circles and have the values ​​zero, three, four and five. Less than 15 of these have been found in Norway. Similar dice were found in the famous Vimose weapon-offering site at Fyn in Denmark.

Strategic board games

The gaming board at Vimose was also preserved, so we have some idea of what board games may have been played during the period in Scandinavia. Inspired by the Roman game Ludus latrunculorum, board games seem to have been a popular hobby amongst the Scandinavian elite of the time.

These games are an early relative of the more famous board game Hnefatafl played during the Viking Age. The strategy game was likely played for enjoyment or even strategic training on long ocean voyages. Hnefatafl pieces found recently on Lindisfarne suggest Vikings travelled with the game.

“Finding a game that is almost two thousand years old is incredibly fascinating. It tells us that the people then were not so very different from us,” said Ramstad."