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An Archaeologist In Kenya Discovered An “Ancient Arcade” Of Game Boards Carved Into Rock That Date Back Thousands Of Years Ago And Resemble The Popular Pastime “Mancala”

Ezume Images - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only

When you think of the ancient world, images of towering monuments and grand empires are probably what comes to mind. The magnificent structures that ancient people built often overshadow some of the simpler aspects of daily life in old civilizations.

For instance, in the past, people found joy, competition, and camaraderie in playing games, just as we do now.

An archaeologist from Yale University in Kenya named Veronica Waweru discovered an ancient version of an arcade with game boards that had been carved into rock after following up with a tip-off from a local contact.

It was about tourists tampering with prehistoric stone hand axes at a site within a private wildlife conservancy. While exploring the site, which was located along the equator in the central highlands of East Africa, she noticed some rows of shallow pits engraved in a rock ledge.

Waweru believes that the pits were used to play a form of Mancala, which are two-person games of strategy that are typically played on boards with small stones, seeds, beads, or marbles. Today, Mancala is still popular all over the world.

Evidence suggests that the Mancala-like games have origins that can be traced back to thousands of years ago. Examples of the games have been uncovered at archaeological sites across Africa. At the site in Kenya, Waweru has identified 20 Mancala-style game boards of various ages.

Some of the pits were deep enough to hold a handful of stones, but others had experienced significant erosion and had become extremely shallow. The erosion indicates that some pits were older than others.

Determining the exact ages of the game boards proves challenging, though. The rocks they are carved into are approximately 400 million years old, and they lack any organic material that can be used for dating.

However, modern people living in the same region today continue to play games like Mancala when they are out herding livestock, showing how the form of recreation has transcended time periods.

Ezume Images – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only

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