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Ephesus Museum

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Serbian dancers
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My Favourite Planet > English > Middle East > Turkey > Selçuk > photo gallery 1
Selçuk gallery 1 Selçuk town 11 of 30

A gameboard carved on a stone block in the Basilica of Saint John, Selcuk, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Basilica of Saint John. A gameboard (?) carved on a stone block.
For further details about Saint John's Basilica, Selçuk,
including opening times, see gallery page 5.

Several authors believe that this roughly carved geometric design and other similar graffiti in and around Ephesus are ancient gameboards. According to one theory, this pattern may have been scratched into the stone for an ancient version of the game nine men's morris, known to have been played in ancient Egypt before 1400 BC, around the Roman Empire and in many places during the Middle Ages.

When and under what circumstances people decided to carve such "gameboards" into the stones of ancient monuments is unknown. It is believed that many such gamebeboards at ancient sites around the Graeco-Roman world may have been scratched onto stone paving stones and floors by bored soldiers.

Board and dice games are mentioned by several ancient authors, and depicted in ancient art, for example on Athenian vases of the 6th century BC showing Achilles and Ajax playing a board game (see Homer part 2 in the MFP People section).

The Ephesus Museum in Selçuk now exhibits a large stone slab carved with such a gameboard, set up as a table with two stools, in a creative attempt to indicate how the game was played.

Some games may have had a deeper - perhaps spiritual or symbolic - signficance for some players. "Gameboards" have been found at many ancient Greek and Roman temples, such as the Temple of Apollo at Didyma and the Parthenon in Athens. In 2009 Greek archaeologist Eleni Karakitsou announced that during the most recent restoration of the Parthenon around 50 "gameboards" were found carved on the steps and floor of the building, and there may previously have been many more. Such rough carvings are almost impossible to date, and their significance remains unclear.

The findings of "gameboards" at temples may be coincidental and nothing to do with their original sacred functions. The Parthenon, for example, was used from the end of antiquity to the 19th century as a church, a mosque and a barracks. It is also the case that temples have been more carefully examined than other types of constructions. This aspect of archaeology has yet to be systematically studied.

See photos of other "gameboard" carvings:

Ephesus gallery page 5 (a form of backgammon?)

Ephesus gallery page 17 (rota game?)
photo galleries

Selcuk photo gallery 1 - town of Selcuk, Turkey

gallery 1
Selçuk town

Selcuk photo gallery 2 - Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Turkey

gallery 2
Ephesus Museum

Selcuk photo gallery 3 - Serbian folk dancers in Selcuk, Turkey

gallery 3
Serbian dancers

The My Favourite Planet travel guide to Ephesus, Turkey


the nearby archaeological site
Map, photos and articles: © David John,
except where otherwise specified.

Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis

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Images and materials by other authors
have been attributed where applicable.

Please do not use these photos or articles without permission.

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Higher resolution versions are available on request.
See also
The Cheshire Cat Blog
photo essays about Turkey:

Istanbul Essentials part 1

Istanbul Essentials part 2

Istanbul Essentials part 3
with video

Ionian Spring part 1

Ionian Spring part 2

Ionian Spring part 3
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