Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Clay cuneiform tablet; explanatory diagram and rules for playing the game of 20 squares (Royal Game of Ur). Colophon of Itti-Marduk-balatu.

  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Width: 9.4 centimetres
    • Height: 10 centimetres
    • Depth: 2.8 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Language

  • Curator's comments

    This cuneiform tablet contains the world’s oldest known rules for a board game, recorded by a Babylonian astronomer in 177 BC.

    The original game had evolved and was now played for bets with five different pieces per player. The front of the tablet (pictured right) shows how the central squares were also used for fortune-telling.

    Bottero, Syria 33, 30-35. Weidner, Syria 33, 175-183. Finkel, Board Games, 16-32. Oelsner, Materialien, 229 no. 845.


  • Bibliography

    • Weidner E F 1956a bibliographic details
    • Marseille 1991 cat. 272, pp.154, 199, fig. 147 (entry by I.L. Finkel) bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G56/dc16

  • Exhibition history


    2012 28 Nov - 2013 18 Mar, Paris, Musee National du Moyen Age, 'Jeux de la Babylone antique a l'occident medieval'
    1991 22 Nov-1992 16 Feb, France, Marseille, Musee de la Vieille Charite, Jeux et Jouets dans l’Antiquite

  • Condition

    Fair; possible light flaking of inscribed surface near one corner (assessed 1991)

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


Clay cuneiform tablet; instructions for playing the Royal Game of Ur.

Clay cuneiform tablet; instructions for playing the Royal Game of Ur.

Image description



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Object reference number: WCT70839

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