Monday, 4 Dec 2023

A Brief History of Dice

A Brief History of Dice

Dice have become synonymous with gambling games, and anyone who has ever played Craps or Sic Bo will tell you just how exciting it is watching the roll of them, and waiting to see if you’re a winner. But dice are not a new invention, and just like games of Craps and Sic Bo have a rich and illustrious history, so too do these 6 sided, numbered cubes.

People all over the world have been playing dice games for centuries and the vey first dice ever to appear were made of sheep bones; or knuckles to be exact. These dice had 4 flat sides and legend goes that if a player managed to land on the right one, they’d be a winner. The throwing of knucklebones has been going on since at least 5000 BC, and the first known instance of this was in Sumer. But that’s not to say that dice weren’t around in one-way or another, even before then, and much like legal sports betting, these little items have undergone several successful metamorphosis.

A Dice Evolution

The earliest dice ever found were in Iran and Iraq, and both stemmed from around 3000 BC. After many years of 4 flat sided dice being in use, someone decided that it was time to cut off the rounded edges of knucklebones and create 6 sided dice; the same number of sides as the standard dice in use today.

In time, dice were made from other materials too, and instead of sheep knuckles, they were crafted out of wood, stone and ivory. Bone however, remained a popular medium and the numbered spots were carved in on each side. The order of the numbers has not changed over the years either, and even the oldest dice have the 1 opposite the 6, the 3 opposite the 4 and the 5 opposite the 2.

Why Don’t Dice Have Numbers?

You might be wondering why dice don’t just have the numbers 1 to 6 on them, as surely this would make more sense than a few dots. But the reason as to why this is the case is due to the fact that when dice were invented, numbers were not. The dots on the side didn’t really denote the numbers 1 to 6, they were simply identifying characteristics that made it easier for the players to see what a result was. They could have used any symbol really, but the dots stuck and remain to this day.

Chinese and Indian Origins

Dice also have their origins firmly entrenched in China, and in ancient China people made use of square dice.

In ancient India cubed dice were in use by the time the Harappan period came around in 2000 BC, and Native Americans also used dice, with women taking the leading roles in game play.

Interestingly, archaeologists often find dice while excavating, as they were not considered items of value and were often discarded in favour of a newer pair, or one that was deemed lucky!