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The Things of Warsaw / Room of Archaeology

Ceramic floor tile with Nine Men’s Morris Board

Ceramic floor tile with Nine Men’s Morris Board

Nine Men’s Morris, a strategy game for two players is recognised as one of the oldest games in the world still played today. The game requires a flat surface to draw a board as well as two sets of nine pieces each. The board consists of twenty four points delineated on the intersections of lines in the corners and on the sides of three squares, on which players set their pieces. The goal is to block the opponent’s move or to remove their pieces. The game can be played almost everywhere, because both the board drawing and the pieces are easy to make.

The game origins remain unknown. Engravings on roof tiles of the temple in Kurna, Egypt, erected around 1440 BC, are considered to be its oldest found traces. A range of variations of Nine Men’s Morris with different board patterns were certainly known in the territories of the Roman Empire in the first centuries of the Common Era. The game became particularly popular in medieval Europe, where it was also played using dice. Dated back to the 17th century, the small-scale board was created on the surface of a ceramic floor tile. The lines were engraved in the not yet dried clay and fired. The board pattern represents the most widespread variation of the game in Europe.

Preserved with only minor damages, the tile is a unique specimen. It was found during archaeological explorations in the area around Władysławowska
(Ladislaus) Tower of the Royal Castle. Following the 1971 decision to reconstruct the Castle, destroyed during World War II, archaeological and architectural examination was launched at the site. Initially, given the fast pace of the construction works and the vast scope of explorations, all of Warsaw’s academic and research centres were involved in the process. From 1973 until the opening of the Castle to the public in 1984, archaeological excavations were pursued single-handedly by archaeologists from the Historical Museum of the City of Warsaw, currently the Museum of Warsaw, who continued to discover new facts and artefacts which documented the most ancient history of the city and of its castle.

Ceramic floor tile with Nine Men’s Morris Board
17,5 × 18 × 4,5 CM

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