Session 1b: Models, Metaphors, Meanings – University of Copenhagen

Board Game Studies Colloquium XX > Program > Session 1b: Models, Me...

Session 1b: Models, Metaphors, Meanings

The Symbolic Meanings of the Merels Board

Wed 17 May, 10:30 - 11:00 (KUA3, Room 4A.1.60)

Marisa Uberti
Independent researcher, Historical Research Group of Rovato & Centro Studi Triplice Cinta, Bergamo, Italy

The popular game of merels assumes, in certain contexts, a value that goes beyond the playful aspect. In this presentation, the speaker will show numerous examples of Merels boards on which it is impossible to play a game; therefore, it becomes important to consider the symbolic aspect of the object, which is not always easy to decipher, and often remains enigmatic. The speaker will show examples discovered through 16 years of research, and demonstrate their distribution through the projection of statistical charts. Through personal effort and the Centro Studi Triplice Cinta, the speaker has collected more than 3.000 examples worldwide, some highly curious and mysterious with regard to their real meaning, others accompanied by legends and metaphors. Based on the location, characteristics and contexts of the boards, four major non-game categories of interpretation have been established:

  1. Esoteric (initiation, magical-religious, apotropaic)
  2. Professional ( "Signum Tabellionis", brand builders, sign recognition)
  3. Astronomical
  4. Artistic / decorative

The presentation will outline the main arguments of the study through text and image.

Marisa Uberti is an independent researcher of scientific training belonging to the Historical Research Group of Rovato (province of Brescia, Lombardy, Italy). Since 2000 she has been passionate about the study of table games (merels, little merels, alquerque, fox & geese), in particular the Triplice Cinta (nine men's morris). Much of her research has been undertaken in the field. In 2013 she founded the Centro Studi Triplice Cinta which aims to do a 360° survey of the material in question. The study center is composed of members of various nations, but especially Italians. The primary objectives of the center is to collect an expanding and updated international database, interact with other scholars and enthusiasts, acquire and provide reference literature, publish articles, and disclose and support initiatives and events.

In 2008 Marisa Uberti published (with Giulio Coluzzi) a book called I luoghi delle Triplici Cinte in Italia: alla ricerca di un simbolo sacro o di un gioco senza tempo? (Eremon Editions, 2008). In 2012 she published the book The Merels Board Enigma. With worldwide census (self-published, translated by Gianluca Toro). The book was also published in Italian.

From India to Europe and Back: Comparing War Mentalities in Chess Variants through the Ages

Wed 17 May, 11:00 - 11:30 (KUA3, Room 4A.1.60)

Dr Maria Schetelich
Indologist (retired), University of Leipzig, Germany

There seems to be no doubt that the idea of war has been behind the invention of  chess, and through the ages, countless variants have been invented to illustrate or adapt it to different forms and notions of the game and its terminologies. The paper deals in a comparative way with five chess variants: two from Europe (Riesenschach and Schoenberg chess) and three from India (catūrāji, hariharacaturaṅga and the modern budhibala) – to get an idea of the different mentalities of the games and the different notions of war behind them that were responsible for their respective characteristic features: the experience of direct participation in real battle (four-handed Schoenberg chess), the memory of an event of national history (two-handed Riesenschach), the aspiration for world-emperorship by becoming "Lord of the Four Cardinal Directions" (four-handed catūrāji), the staging of an event from Hindu mythology on the chessboard (two-handed great chess hariharacaturaṅga), and winning a war through the strategical problem of subduing the enemy king by using only a single type of one's own forces (two-handed traditional budhibala).

1957 - 1962: Study of Indology and Ethnology at Humboldt-University Berlin.
1962 - 1993: Research worker (Indian history, economy and culture) at the Institute of Oriental Studies (later: Central Institute of Ancient History and Archaeology), German Academy of Science, Berlin (East).
1993 - 2003: Research assistant, Institute of Indian and Central Asian Studies, University of Leipzig. Retired since August 2003.
Fields of Interest: History and culture (ancient and medieval) of India and Nepal; history of Indian political theory (artha- and nītiśāstra); intellectual history (universities and science) of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries; history of chess and related subjects.

Dame Fortune and God's Providence: A Conceptual Metaphor Analysis of a Swedish Dice Game Book from the 17th Century

Wed 17 May, 11:30 - 12:00 (KUA3, Room 4A.1.60)

Dr Iris Ridder
Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Dalarna, Sweden

Cognitive metaphors are perceived as a conceptual phenomenon, where an underlying source domain and an underlying target domain interact and result in new insights. They are regarded as cognitive tools that facilitate, and enables our orientation in, and understanding of, the world. In my paper I will present a conceptual metaphor analysis of a Swedish dice game book from the 17th century, written by Gisle Jacobson, mining clerk employed at Stora Kopparberget. The text was printed in 1613 and titled A small pastime, wherewith to while away time. With the starting-point in the so-called "dobblet", a game of dice played by the mine workers at New Year's Eve in order to determine the mining order and the allotment of rock, Gisle Jacobson presents certain rules of life, as well as a series of moral and practical advice. The work of the miners in Falun was hazardous; characterized by great effort and even greater dangers. This paper analyses the game text's semantic fields concerning luck and fate, to elucidate in what way the oracle game affects the reader on an ethical and emotional level.

Iris Ridder is Associate Professor at the University of Dalarna in Sweden. She is currently working on a monograph on the use of games in the medieval and late medieval Swedish mining society of Falun and its mining enterprise, Great Copper Mountain (Stora Kopparberget in Swedish). Iris Ridder has written several articles about the subject and recently published: "Dicing towards death: An oracle game for miners at the Falun copper mine from the early 17th century" in M. Korpiola & A. Lahtinen (eds.) Cultures of Death and Dying in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. COLLeGIUM: Studies across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Science. Vol. 18, 2015. Helsinki: Collegium for Advanced Studies, pp. 129-151.