At the Second Annual Conference for Nabataean Studies, Dr. Bilal Khrisat of the Hashemite University, presented a paper that introduced the conference to the various board games that are found in ancient Petra. That paper was also responsible for introducing Nabataea.net to this fascinating aspect about Petra. In response to Dr. Khrisat's studies we have started to search through Petra and other Nabataean sites to discover these games, and to try and find what they were and how they were played. In order to do this, we first did some basic research into ancient games, so we would be better informed about what we might find. Second, we rounded up several Nabataea.net activists and made a sweeping tour of Petra. Instead of looking up at the marvelous monuments, we kept our heads down, and scoured the ground. It was an exciting visit to Petra, because game boards started popping up all over the place. (See: Petra: City of Game Boards) Third, we then visited other Nabataean sites, such as Wadi Rumm, to look for board games there. Fourth, we solicited the help of folk at CanBook's game division. Kenneth Betts, the game logistics expert then worked hard at trying to reconcile the game boards we found with what is known about ancient games, to see if we could figure out how they might have been played. Lastly, the results have been written up in a paper titled: Ancient Board Games and the Nabataeans.
Below are pictures of some of the game board that we discovered.
Above: Some of the beautiful locations within the Wadi Rumm Reserve.
On our way, we stopped so some of us could climb a sand dune.
Our destination was a small rock located in the middle of a valley. The rock in question is to the right of the vehicle, where a variety of game boards were carved onto the flat rock to the right of the vehicle. This rock is located in a wadi that runs north/south. It also is near the intersection where the east/west wadi runs, so it makes for a natural stopping point. (GPS Location: N29 29.931 E035 27.636 Elevation: 1050 meters)
The first game board to catch our attention was a 5 x 5 board. This was quite clear, and may not be from antiquity.
Could this be an 8 x 8 Seega board? This board was quite faint, but we could make out another 8 x 8 board. This strange board looked like 3 x 11. Also note how small the holes are.
On the back side of the rock was another weathered game board. Above: Would you believe a triangular shaped board? Because of weathering, this one was hard to photograph, so we placed some stones around it to try and make it easier to see.
Left: The front side of the rock was littered with various game boards. If these were carved by a lonely shepherd, on the back side of the desert, why did he need so many boards. Obviously this was a gathering point for people, who had time to sit and play games. Either that, or this was an ancient illegal gambling casino. :)
Below: The small mountain beside this rock, (to the left of the vehicle in the third picture) also had some interesting things on it. First of all, on the north side, there were two strange slabs of rock hard material, that contained drawings, writing, and other symbols. This rock appears to have been soft at one time, but later it hardened. Could this have been Nabataean waterproof cement?
This strange looking game board is very small, and was located on the mountain with the strange symbols and drawings. It appears to be a 5 X 10 board, but it was located on a sloped rock, not a flat one.
On the top of the small mountain was a pile of rocks. It appears that there might have been a lookout tower or shelter on this location long ago. Modern day grave robbers have visited this site, but they didn't find much.
Left: Nathan, an agronomist from Australia was along for this Nabataea.net visit. He was always examining the soil, rocks, plants, animals and everything else he could find. Yes, he is tasting the white rock to see if it is acidic or alkaline!
Petra: City of Board Games Senet Games Ancient Board Games and the Nabataeans Labyrinths Wadi Rumm: Valley of Game Boards Seega Games