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20 Squares (É Er-bé-et-ta, Iseb, Aseb, Game of Twenty, Twenty Squares, Room Four)

Period(s)

Ancient

Region(s)

Northern Africa, Southern Asia, Western Asia

Categories

Board, Race, Escape.

Description

20 Squares appears for the first time at the beginning of the second millennium BCE. It seems to be derived originally from the the Royal Game of Ur, becoming particularly popular in Iran, the Levant, Egypt, and Cyprus in addition to Mesopotamia during the Late Bronze Age (1700–1050 BCE), and continued being played in Mesopotamia into the Seleucid period, at least until the second century BCE. Two cuneiform tablets which attest to the rules of the game as played in Seleucid times have recently been translated. There has been some discussion over the ancient name of the game. The best argument is made by Wee (2018: 870) who identified the name as É Er-bé-et-ta, "Room Four," which he also finds in other cuneiform tablets. Others have pointed to a Middle Kingdom Egyptian tomb painting at Beni Hasan which may show two men playing the game, accompanied by the caption "iseb" or "aseb" (Crist et al 2016: 85–87). Earlier scholars assumed that a game named "Tjau" mentioned in some Late Period Egyptian texts was this game (e.g., Peterson 1974: 853), but that has been rejected by more recent scholars (Pusch 2007: 84).

Rules

3x4 grid with an extension of eight spaces along the central row. Played with two knucklebones, one small and one large. Five or seven pieces per player.

DLP evidence.

All Rulesets

Scholarly rulesets
Seleucid Proposed by Irving Finkel based on rules from Mesopotamia.

Reconstructed rulesets
Simple 20 Squares Played on a board with no markings.
Marked 20 Squares Played on a board with certain marked squares.
20 Squares Liver Model Played on a board shaped to resemble a liver.
Double 20 Squares Played on a doubled 20 Squares board.

Origin

Mesopotamia

See Also

Royal Game of Ur

Ludeme Description

20 Squares.lud

Leaderboard

20 Squares

Evidence Map

109 pieces of evidence in total. Browse all evidence for 20 Squares here.

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Sources

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Becker, A. 1993. Uruk. Kleinfunde I, Stein. Mainz am Rhein: Philip von Zabern.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem. 1992. Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, Guide to Collection. Jerusalem: R. Sirkis Publishers Ltd.

Bottéro, J. 'Deux curiosités assyriologiques (avec une note de Pierre Hamelin).' Syria 33: 17–35.

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Reference ID

DLP.Game.7

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