Like Go and Chess, Backgammon has been around for a very long time. Possibly as old as five thousand years, it has its roots in the region now known as Iraq but was formerly known as Mesopotamia. The recent discovery in the vicinity of prehistoric dice (constructed of human bones) lends credence to this theory.
Trictrac board and gaming pieces found in an Augustinerkloster in Freiburg, Germany. The board is likely made after 1278.
The Origin of Backgammon
There's a lot of interesting stuff in Backgammon's long and storied history. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, the game's backstory is fascinating. Due to the game's long history, its creator(s) remain a mystery; nonetheless, the first known Backgammon boards were unearthed in Ur.
Due to its immense popularity and the fact that it can be played by just about everyone, we'll be delving into the origins of the game of Backgammon.
The Biblical home of Abraham, Ur of the Chaldees, was discovered by British archaeologists in the 1920s. Amazingly, they discovered five distinct game configurations in the royal cemetery, all of which are similar to modern-day Backgammon in some way. Made of wood, they were covered in a mosaic of shell, bone, lapis lazuli, black paste, and black limestone set in bitumen and embellished with animals and rosettes.
Not long after that, a similar gaming board was unearthed in yet another region of ancient Mesopotamia. A short time later, an American exploration team came upon a board game with two dice, one of which was inlaid with gold.
Even though this board wasn't as ornately adorned as others, two sets of playing pieces and dice were tucked away neatly under the surface.
Each man in one set was made out of a single black square inlaid with five lapis dots, while the other sets were made up of similarly sized squares of shell etched with vignettes. It appears that there were seven guys and six dice for each participant.
The Bottom Line
The Royal Game of Ur, which originated in Mesopotamia around 2,600 B.C., may have been the origin of backgammon.
The popularity of the game eventually waned, giving birth to Backgammon. Even now, the birth place of backgammon, the game remains a staple of Iraqi culture, regularly included at meetings of all kinds, from coffee shops and homes to public events.
Austria, probably in Tyrol, last quarter of the 15th century
MS M.763 fol. 134v
Der Renner: Scene, about Backgammon -- Two men, seated on benches on opposite sides of hinged table, play backgammon.
the artwork of the thumbnail is from:
Lucas van Leyden
Dutch | 1494 - 1533
Lucas van Leyden was a Dutch Old Masters artist who was born in 1494.
Left: 11th century wooden backgammon pieces from Colletire, France. Right: Trictrac board and gaming pieces found in an Augustinerkloster in Freiburg, Germany. The board is likely made after 1278.