Dice-Like Toys, Games And Fortune Telling

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Pablo Edronkin

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Craps is the most popular dice game around the world, but not the only one, and dice have been used also for fortune telling and sorcery as well in ancient times.

The dice used to play craps and other games have been invented long a go by a man called Palamedes; he was a Greek soldier apparently quite bored with his military duties. So, a short time after Palamedes conceived his idea soldiers under siege, laying siege to other soldiers, cities and so on, soldiers waiting for battle, standing guard or on leave began throwing dice for fun, money, and to forget the kind of situations they often found themselves.

But the idea of throwing something in order to make a decision according to the way in which it falls to the ground was older and could follow many different variations: throwing a coin is, in this regard, the same as throwing dice, only that with a coin you have two possible different outcomes. Indeed, odds and probability vary according to each object thrown but the essence remains the same: gravity determines the fate of the game, to put it in a very simple fashion.

It would be nearly impossible to play dice in space, where gravity is zero indeed, unless each dice had some sort of adhesive, magnetic coating or electrically charged surface to make it stick where it falls, and in the case of other ancient games that consisted in throwing things, it would be even more difficult. Thus, one could say that had these games survived until our days, they would be doomed in the space age.

The Egyptians, for example, used to throw things for fun, betting of course, and fortune telling. In the past, all these games were not like today, when we essentially throw dice just for fun. Things in the natural world were not seen as separate, but as a part of a whole, and as there were gods for storms, war, love and so on, even apparently menial activities had some sort of mysterious or sacred meaning.

Throwing these things that often were simple coloured stones that, according in the way that they mixed in the fall they were interpreted; in various cultures and ethnic groups they also used bones, sea shells, etc. but the idea remained essentially the same. Even the most primitive form of compass used in China was a metallic soup that had being magnetized so that fortune tellers could rotate in a very similar way as the ball in a roulette or a wheel of fortune. The spoon would have a tendency to point to the north, so, of course, a lot of fraud occurred.

In Egyptian hieroglyphs there are lots of descriptions of games based on throwing stones, little statues and object specifically manufactured for such a purpose, like little pyramids and lenticular or coin-shaped items marked in specific ways on each side. So, considering the fact that the ancient people of both Greece and Egypt had commercial, military and cultural intercourse, it is quite likely that Mr. Palamedes just perfected the idea of dice, but he got the concept from somewhere else.

Evidence indicates that by the time in which the prehistoric stone cromlech rows at Kermario were being constructed, humans were already gambling on valuables, bartering prizes and learning about their future with things thrown to the ground.

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