History of the Dice

History of Dice

The Dice and its History

Dice is the oldest known gaming device known to humankind. It is used to generate random numbers.Used for gaming and fortune telling, the dice has changed many forms. Cube-shaped, it started as a four-sided dice. Today, you can even find a 100 sided dice known as Zocchihedron. Origin of the dice can be traced back to 3000 B.C. Originally manufactured with animal bones; these days dice is made of plastic. Let’s trace the history of this small but essential piece of any board game, through civilisations and dates.

Invention of the dice

Dice-shaped objects, which have been excavated from various civilisation sites are found to be carbon dated 3000 B.C. This means that the dice is nearly 5000 years old. The dice discovered had a pyramid shape with four sides. The next evolved version of the dice, the cubical shaped dice was found in Egyptian tombs of 2000 B.C. Since, then dice have been found at sites of many civilisations dated 600-400 B.C. Dices have even been a subject for analysis by famous mathematicians Pascal and Fermat in 1600 A.D.  Their report gave birth to the brilliant Mathematical study of probability. Ludo, a board game using dice was patented in 1896. Since then there has been an onslaught of board games using dice.

Prominence of dice in civilisations

Bronze Age civilisations that flourished in and around ancient Persia or present-day Iran are probably the first to use dice in a game.  The game looked like a version of today’s backgammon. Egyptian civilisation also seems to have used dice in a board game called Senet.  The next use of dice was found in the Sumerian culture. They used it in a game called Royal game of Ur. It has been various references of dice being located in the Indus valley civilisation as well. There are also references of dice in the Greek (siege of Troy) and Indian (Mahabharata) mythology. There is a significant historical reference of dice attributed to Julius Caesar – “Alea iacta est” meaning “the die has been cast”.

Different structures of dice

Earliest known dice were made from ankle bones of sheep. They had four sides with some markings on each face. They were used for fortune telling. Later on, the dice were made from ivory, bronze, marble, porcelain etc. These were cubical dice and were used for games as well as for gambling. A 2000-year-old dice are having 20 sides have been found in ancient Egypt. Modern-day dice is made from plastic using an injection moulding process. These are non-precision dice used in children’s board games. Precision dice that is used in casinos are built in ways to have the dice’s centre of gravity closest to the geometric centre. These days dice have sides ranging from 6 to a 100.

There is no exact date of origin of the dice. Still, it has been found that dice or dice-like objects have been uniformly used in all ages and civilisations. Perhaps it is the oldest game that is always relevant and popular today.