Gambling has been around since ancient pagan ancestors used games of chance as divination tools. Today it remains an enjoyable past time with its roots still strong today.
Even though most of us view gambling as a vice, it’s actually a secularized ritual of divination – and one of the world’s most beloved activities.
Ancient Egyptians enjoyed playing a range of board games, from those requiring skill to those that had spiritual significance. Of particular note was Senet, known for its religious significance. Played on a long board painted with 30 squares and using dice or throwing sticks (likely knucklebones) to determine counter movement, paintings found in tombs show even gods and pharaohs played this simple pastime!
Ancient Egyptians were acutely aware of history, using their king lists to judge both past rulers’ positive and negative qualities. Their history can be broken into 30 dynasties which reflect various periods of Egyptian history based on when calendar records were made available to them.
Gambling was an integral part of life in ancient Greece. Dice games were especially popular, while certain locations offered the chance to place bets on fights or races. Homer even mentioned board games – which were very prevalent at that time.
The Greeks were well-known for juggling and other physical games that required physical skill, with competition among their population. Artifacts show children often played these games alongside their parents. An important development in ancient Greek history was democracy – all male citizens could vote and take part in civic affairs.
One of the most remarkable archaeological finds from this era was a grave found on Euboea dating to about 1000 bce containing a man and woman seated together with hands together, dating to around that period. It shows that Greeks weren’t as impoverished as once thought, as well as that they held different views regarding money called “ohaderfismos,” or taking an informal approach towards solving issues.
Ancient Chinese culture was known for being highly fond of games of chance. Some texts reference a game played with tiles dating back to 2,300 BC, while by 900 AD, playing cards had been invented and decorated with shapes and symbols before eventually traveling over to Europe where Mamalukes adapted them into the standard King and Queen shapes that we recognize today.
Gambling first surfaced during China’s Xia Dynasty. In 926, Huangfu Hui tried his luck gambling at a military camp but soon found himself deep in debt and needing a way out. To recoup his losses he kidnapped one of his generals and forced them to launch a rebellion against the emperor – leading him into debt himself!
Frank Hamilton Cushing, working for the Bureau of American Ethnology in New Mexico during the 1880s, studied Zuni tribe’s game patolli (bo). According to Analytical Dictionary of Chinese Characters liu bo was similar to chess; hence its nickname as Liubo.
European nations were eager to establish colonial empires all around the globe during the 17th and 18th centuries, often as adventurers seeking fortune or spreading Christianity to new territories.
In this era, many forms of gambling were introduced into America – some by native people themselves and some via European settlers. Cards, dice, and board games such as backgammon were all created during this time period.
Gambling was widely seen as a sinful pastime in Ancient Egypt and historians have recorded harsh penalties against gamblers who played games of chance for money.
Frank Hamilton Cushing was a pioneer American archaeologist and ethnographer. His book “American Indian Games” became the basis for modern studies of indigenous gaming practices; furthermore he helped prevent land theft at Zuni tribe in New Mexico by blocking land theft attempts; finally co-authoring a book on games of Basketmaker II culture culture.
Today’s gamblers may enjoy gambling immensely, yet its origins go back millennia. There’s always been some element of chance in our daily decisions and so it makes sense that people have long been drawn to games of chance.
Gambling has undergone tremendous change throughout history, each era adding its own special twist. Today there are various online casino games as well as skill-based ones which allow players to place real money wagers.
Recent archaeological finds suggest that modern board games like chess and checkers may date back to medieval Europe! A team of archaeologists discovered a “tableman” gaming piece while excavating in Bedfordshire, England – this artifact used to play different board games like tabula (similar to modern backgammon). The discovery will surely pique both history buffs and gamers’ interest alike; its manufacture likely included using parts from cattle mandibles adorned with circles and ring-and-dot designs.