Parts of the Egyptian board game Senet

Material: Wood (legs), faience (pawns)
Provenance: Egypt, Collections of Demetriou and Rostovitz
Date: New Kingdom (1550-1075 BC)
Dimensions: Height of legs 11,1 cm (inv. no. 7038), height of pawns between 0,15-0,31 cm (inv. No. 2877-9, 2885, – 587, – 807)
Exhibition place: Room 41, Case, no.1

The reconstruction consists of original legs from a Senet game and is provided with pawns from various game sets.

Senet was one of the most popular Egyptian board games, for cultural and religious reasons. In hieroglyphic script, senet means 'passage' or 'trial'.

The game was played on flat stone or faience plaques or elaborate wooden or faience boxes. The board displayed an incised grid and symbols and consisted of thirty squares laid out in three rows of ten. Occasionally some boards displayed a shorter 20 square grid (called tjau, meaning perhaps 'robbers') on their reverse surface. Pawns were indispensable for this game. Each of the two opponents had five pawns differentiated by their conical or discoid shapes or by color. Sometimes they possessed the form of kneeling or bound captives or were capped by the head of the protective god Bes. Although the rules of the game are not certain, they may have survived in the game "El-tab el-siga", widespread in the Middle East. The players threw dice-like knuckle-bones or sticks with differently colored sides. The first to remove all of his pawns from the board was the winner.

Originally part of the Egyptians' earthly life, senet acquired a symbolic meaning during the New Kingdom and was identified with the deceased's perilous journey through the Underworld. For this reason it was included among the burial furnishings both to serve as a pastime and because it of its connection with the afterlife. Senet is mentioned and represented in vignettes of the Book of the Dead. In the Book of the Dead and in tomb murals, the deceased plays senet against an invisible opponent. In this case, victory will assure happiness in the afterlife.

¬ibliography: «. Carter, Das Grab des Tut-ench-Amun, Wiesbaden 1975, pages 220-221. R.H. Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian art. A hieroglyphic guide to ancient Egyptian painting and sculpture, London 1994, pages 210-211. J.H. Taylor (ed.), Journey through the afterlife. Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, London 2010, pages 140-141, 158-159.

Position in the museum