This type of counter may have been used to play a game of Merils or Nine Men's Morris. This was a popular game in ancient Rome and into the medieval period. No one really knows where and when the game originated. The oldest building that has a Nine Men's Morris board carved into its stones is an Egyptian temple at Kurna, Egypt, which dates to roughly 1400 BCE. However, it is not known when the game board itself was carved into the Kurna temple's roofing slabs; was it at the time of the construction or much later in history. There are many Nine Men's Morris carved into various buildings' stones throughout the Roman Empire and in the seats of many medieval cathedrals. *Photo left: Nine Men’s Morris, carved on a floor at Diocletian’s Mausoleum in Split, Croatia.
Roman games were often very competitive. One inscription from a Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum game board in Rome read 'Levate dalocu, ludere nescis, idiota recede' (Jump up, push off, you don't know how to play, get out stupid) indicating just how heated games could get.
The use of purpose-made counters for board games was a Roman introduction to Britain where gaming was clearly important. A 24 year old man from Lullingstone villa was buried in AD300 with his gaming board and 30 gaming piece (15 red and 15 white) so that he could play eternally in the afterlife.
Condition: Well preserved.
Dimensions: 2.2cm dia.
Provenance: Ex. private collection, UK; acquired at UK auction.