Gambling was present in almost every major, ancient civilization. From the Mesolithic rolling of hucklebones, to the Mesopotamian invention of the six-sided die, and finally to the Chinese invention of the card, not only did gambling survive through countless civilizations of ancient history, it evolved into a global phenomenon. Stakes on these games could range from Quadrans, the Roman equivalent of pennies, to betting an entire estate on a simple throw of the die. Interestingly, as in modern times, ancient peoples and civilizations had varying opinions of gambling. Some ignored it, some outlawed it, and some accepted it. Despite the numerous stances on gambling, one thing held true for all civilizations, gambling was a part of its culture.
Gambling “is simply older than history,” (Schwartz, 5). It’s oldest form, divination, was introduced around the same time systematic agriculture was (circa 14000 BCE). Divination is the practice of letting the outcome of an outside object determine what a person or a group should do in a certain situation. “Some examples of modern divination systems are the tarot, I Ching, scrying and using a pendulum,” (Ward, Keith). But, “the most widespread and oldest divination game was odds and evens,” (Schwartz, 6). Evidence for odds and evens divination can be found in ancient texts, and it has survived into the modern era among some African tribes (Schwartz, 6). Hucklebones, another widespread divination tool formally known as astragali, are heel-bones found in various animals that were removed and used as primitive four-sided dice. Each astragalus had four asymmetrical sides, each side stood for a distinct outcome (Schwartz, 7). “The line between div...
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Rofe, Michael. Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. 1990.
New York: Facts on File Inc., 2003. Print.
Saunders, Chas, and Peter A. "Macuilxochitl." Godchecker.com. N.p., 2010. Web.
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Schwartz, David G. Roll The Bones. New York: Gotham Books, 2007. Print.
Wallenfels, Ronald. Ancient Mesopotamia 3300-331 B.C.E. New York: A Manly Inc.,
2005. Print. Vol. 8 of World Eras.
Ward, Keith. "What is Divination?" ezinearticles.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar.
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