History of Backgammon

A lot of people play backgammon, and it has continued to grow in popularity since it was first introduced to the world.

As a matter of fact, backgammon is the earliest recorded game in history, and is said to have begun in Mesopotamia during the time of the Persian empire. Traditionally played on a wood surface, players would use stones for markers and create dice out of bones, pottery, wood or stone. The game can actually be traced back thousands of years, and correlates to games that were played by ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Romans and Persians.

Old wooden Backgammon table

Because backgammon was such an influential game, artifacts that have been discovered throughout the ages have led researchers to believe the game was generally associated with leaders of these ancient civilizations. Ancient literary texts also seem to share this opinion. In Egypt, several game boards were unearthed in 3x10, 3x12 and 3x6 sizes, and were attributed to a game called Senat. Quite similar to backgammon (probably one of the earliest forms of the game,) the artifacts date back to 3000-1788 BC. Unfortunately, the rules for this ancient game are still unknown.

Similarly, wooden boards were also discovered in the royal tomb of the Ur al Chaldees, the center of Sumer.

The games are commonly referred to as The Royal Games of Ur and are dated to approximately 2600 BC. Unlike Senat, rules for this game were discovered on a tablet created about 177 BC. Finally, evidence was uncovered about a game the Romans left behind, called The Game of 12 Lines. The boards were upgraded to leather and had 30 markers, 15 of which were made of ebony and the other half of ivory. This game dated back to about 600 AD and is most closely related to the Egyptian game Senat. The gave evolved into what eventually was referred to as Alea, which is considered closest to the game of backgammon as we know it today.

Eventually, backgammon caught on in the states, and there is a lot of history pertaining to the modern form of the game.

For example, from about 1920 to around the 1960's, the doubling cube used in backgammon was introduced in New York. The rules for the game were then modified during the 1930's, and the rules have remained basically the same ever since. Then, during the 1960's to the 1990's, backgammon reached the peak of popularity when Prince Alexis Obelensky created tournaments and the first World Championship of backgammon, which was played in the Bahamas. Throughout the 1970's, the popularity of backgammon only continued to increase when a slew of newspaper articles, books and magazines were wrote about the game. This media attention caused backgammon to become a favorite of both the upper and middle classes as well as young people.

There's no denying that since its origin, backgammon has become a favorite for players of all generations. The computer era only gave rise to the proliferation of internet backgammon games and forums where gamers could visit and discuss the intricacies of the game. There's no telling how long backgammon will last, but considering its long and popular history, it is not a far cry to say backgammon will remain for many years to come.