Session 1a: Tracing History – University of Copenhagen

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Session 1a: Tracing History

Minor Update about Board Games in Rome: Enigmatic Board Games in Early Catholic Contexts

Wed 17 May, 10:30 - 11:00 (KUA3, Room 4A.0.69)

Marco Tibaldini
Academic Researcher, Italian Association of History Teachers, Bergamo, Italy

The relation between board games and Christian religion has been considered critical and negative since its very beginning. It was surely influenced by the deep connection between board games and gambling, and finally led the religious authorities to ban them from the Christian community. In fact, in the canon 79 of the Synod of Elvira, a catholic synod held in Spain between 305-306 AD, it is specified that gambling would have been sanctioned against with a year of interdiction from the Eucharist.

Considering the impact that such severe and official declaration would have had on the Christian community of the time, we may think that board games in general had been banned. In fact, the situation was far more complex, at least in Rome and in the early catholic context, since a great number of games and board games have been found in early Christian catacombs and sites, sometimes with religious messages or implications.

The great majority of this archaeological evidence has already been published by A. Ferrua in a volume focusing on the board games found in the catacombs and dated to the late Roman Empire, but some material of a certain interest, and quite enigmatic, is still unpublished or has never been taken into consideration:

A fresco found in a Christian burial site – the Cubiculum L of the hypogeum located in Dino Compagni road – show a gaming scene with a strange tool which seems to be used to throw dice; and an engraving on a marble slab placed in the internal cloister of the Basilica of the Santi Quattro Coronati, which might indicate a board game, is currently considered as such by the Roman archaeological community.

These two pieces of evidence, which are already enigmatic by themselves, seem even more problematic since they are situated in sites with a deep Catholic connotation, a religious context which should generally be hostile to board games.

I am a researcher in the Italian Association of History Teachers Clio'92, and part of the main European Association of History Teachers and Educators EuroClio, established by the Council of Europe. I have been interested in ancient board games since 2010, and together with my work team I created a history course for students and teachers based on the use of ancient board games. Thanks to this research I held speeches and lessons at the university of Bergamo, Verona, Brescia, Milan, Greenwich, Rutgers University, and published some articles and courses for history teachers in specialized reviews. In early November, I held a speech in the Italian Ministry of Education.

Select Publications
Tibaldini, M., "Sviluppare competenze storiche attraverso una finzione scenica" in I quaderni di Clio, ed. Cenacchi, Bologna 2016.

Tibaldini, M. & M. Scacchi, "I giochi e la scuola" in Quaderni di vita scolastica, ed. Giunti Scuola, Firenze 2015.

Tibaldini, M., "Che cos'è la storia? Scopriamolo con un gioco" in Mundus - rivista di didattica della storia, ed. Palumbo, Palermo 2015.

Tibaldini, M., "Comuni medievali, un gioco di plancia" in Quaderni, 7 ed. - il paesaggio agrario italiano e medievale, ed. Istituto Alcide Cervi, Gattatico 2010.

Tibaldini, M., "Il festival del mondo antico ridisegna il futuro" in Mundus - rivista di didattica della storia, ed. Palumbo, Palermo 2010.

Tibaldini, M., "Giochi e civiltà, fare geo-storia attraverso i giochi tradizionali ed antichi" in Tratti Geografici, ed. FrancoAngeli, Milano 2017 (forthcoming).

Glückshaus: The Game of 7

Wed 17 May, 11:00 - 11:30 (KUA3, Room 4A.0.69)

Dr Jonas Richter
Academic Researcher, Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany

The so-called Glückshaus is a dice game with two dice and a stake board with fields numbered 2-12, usually with a prominent number 7. Today, it seems to be popular in reenactment and larping. It is usually claimed to have originated in late medieval times – despite lack of evidence. What are the earliest shapes of this game that we know of, and is the name "Glückshaus" simply based on a misunderstanding? In an anthology of old board games, Erwin Glonnegger projects the dice game onto a board for a card game (most likely Turmspiel), which has led to modern rules for the game that assume boards without a field for the number 4. Before Glonnegger, the Game of Seven had already seen many changes, its most notorious version being the anti-semitic Game of the Jew dating from around 1800. Comparing variations of the game through the centuries, what stories did the game tell in its various incarnations?

Jonas Richter studied German language and literature and history of religions in Göttingen and Dublin. His PhD thesis (in print) focuses on ancient astronaut mythology in the writings of Erich von Däniken. Richter works for the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities in a research project publishing a new Middle High German dictionary.

Select Publications
"Paläo-SETI" in G. Mayer, M. Schetsche, I. Schmied-Knittel & D. Vaitl (eds.) An den Grenzen der Erkenntnis. Handbuch der wissenschaftlichen Anomalistik. Stuttgart: Schattauer 2015.

"Traces of the Gods. Ancient Astronauts as a Vision of Our Future" in Numen 59 (2012), pp. 222–248.

"Jenseits des Sachbuchs: Erich von Dänikens Astronautengötter in Romanen, Kurzgeschichten und Multimedia" in A. Lewicki, M. Möller, J. Richter & H. Rösch (eds.) Religiöse Gegenwartskultur. Zwischen Integration und Abgrenzung. Münster: LIT-Verlag 2012 (Villigst Profile Bd. 14), pp. 287-305.

With Gerd H. Hövelmann & Gerhard Mayer: "2012 – und kein Ende" (editorial) in Hövelmann, Mayer & Richter (eds.) 2012 – Deutungen und Bedeutungen des Mayakalenders. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik 12,1 (2012), pp. 5-13.

The Mystery of the Black 26-Sided Die

Wed 17 May, 11:30 - 12:00 (KUA3, Room 4A.0.69)

Jakob Gloger
Collector & Games Historian, European Society of Game-Collectors & Dice Maniacs' Club, Leipzig, Germany

Once a very unique die became part of a dice collection, and with it an enormous mystery. This talk is about a polyhedral die with 26 sides. The die is made of a black stone and bears pips and letter pairs. For a long time its meaning was unknown. Does it belong to a special game, and who played with it? Experts interpreted the letter pairs as the first letters of Latin words, and therefore classified the die as belonging to Roman times, but the perspective adopted here seems to prove them wrong. Where did this kind of die come from? It is likely that it was manufactured in Germany.

Feel free to join the journey through several centuries and learn more about present and recent views, the meaning of the letter pairs, the material, the rules, and, in this way, the history of the die.

Jakob Gloger has been fascinated by dice since primary school. His collection currently includes over 10.000 items, and contains dice, dice machines, and dice games.

Select Exhibitions & Publications
In recent years he has presented parts of his personal collection in several exhibitions in German museums:

  • Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig: September 29, 2010 - January 30, 2011
  • Turmuhrenmuseum Naunhof: August 12, 2012 - September 23, 2012
  • Naturalienkabinett Waldenburg: August 18, 2014 - November 8, 2014
  • Schloss Lauenstein: November 26, 2016 - March 26, 2017

Numerous images of objects from his collection are depicted in Ulrich Vogt's book Der Würfel ist gefallen – 5000 Jahre rund um den Kubus.