One of the very first games in the world was invented in Azerbaijan

Senet is considered one of the most ancient board games in the world. According to scientists, it was invented in Ancient Egypt around 3100 BC and was very popular among the Egyptian nobility. Mostly images of this game were discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The rules of the game of senet have not survived to this day, but scientists have tried to recreate them – in short, players had to move pieces on a special board and reach the finish line first. There is another ancient game which is known as “58 holes” or “Dogs and Jackals”. For many years, scientists believed that it, too, was invented in Ancient Egypt. But recently evidence has emerged that the birthplace of the very first game in the world is a completely different place.

One of the very first games in the world was invented in Azerbaijan. “Dogs and Jackals” is one of the very first games that gained great popularity. Image source: IFL Science. Photo.

“Dogs and Jackals” is one of the very first games that gained great popularity . Image source: IFL Science

Ancient Egyptian Board Games

Boards and pieces for the game “58 holes” are found in many corners of the Earth. According to IFL Science, they were found in large quantities in Egypt, Iran, Turkey and several other countries. The oldest specimen was found in the Egyptian necropolis of El Assasif. Scientists believe that it belonged to one of the assistants of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II, who reigned from 2060 to 2009 BC.

Currently, scientists have found approximately 80 boards for the game, and they are exhibited in a variety of museums around the world. The shape and materials of a board can often tell you when and in what part of the world it was created.

Board games of Ancient Egypt. Sometimes holes for the game were made directly on the rocks. Source: The New Yorker. Photo.

Sometimes holes for the game were made directly on the rocks. Source: The New Yorker

It is important to note that “58 Holes” and “Dogs and Jackals” are modern titles of the game. No one knows for sure what the inhabitants of Ancient Egypt and other civilizations called the game. Due to the fact that many of the boards depicted a palm tree, some archaeologists call the ancient game the “palm game.”

How to play Dogs and Jackals

Rules of the game “58 holes” have not survived to this day. The board for it, as the name suggests, has 58 holes into which 10 sticks are inserted. The ends of the sticks have the shape of various animals, mainly dogs and jackals.

Scientists suggest that at the beginning of the game, each player took 5 sticks for the game. After that, they had to roll the dice to get their sticks to the finish line. In most game boards, the holes are arranged in two rows of 10, with the remaining 38 holes spaced around the edges. Some sources say that they were located 29 pieces on each side. Most likely, the shape of the board and the rules varied depending on the country.

How to play Dogs and Jackals. Another version of the board for playing Dogs and Jackals. Image source: Photo.

Another version of the board for playing “Dogs and Jackals”. Image source:

Perhaps the rules provided for situations where players received penalties or opportunities to reach the finish line faster.

Read also: How many lottery tickets do you need to buy to win – that's what science says

Archaeological find in Azerbaijan

Recently, an article appeared in the scientific journal European Journal of Archeology that the game “58 holes” was invented in Azerbaijan. Judging by archaeological finds, local residents played it at the end of the third and beginning of the second millennium BC. This was long before the game appeared on the territory of Ancient Egypt. A particularly large variety of boards for “Dogs and Jackals” were found on the territory of Azerbaijan.

For example, one of the well-preserved copies of the board was found in the Gobustan archaeological reserve, not far from the western shore of the Caspian Sea. It was accidentally discovered by scientists in 2015 and is a stone with holes and images carved into it. Also, samples of the game were found in the Azerbaijani village of Dubendi and several other places with a rich history.

Archaeological find in Azerbaijan. A stone with holes for the game

A stone with holes for the game “Dogs and Jackals” was found in Azerbaijan. Image source: IFL Science

Scientists believe that one of the most ancient games spread from Azerbaijan through trade routes. Perhaps traders taught it to each other, and over time, information about it reached the Egyptian nobility. The game could be a kind of “social lubricant” that helped people find common ground. Scientists noted that with its help, traders could judge the reliability of their partners.

As you can understand, people have been playing various games since time immemorial, and this is far from just children's entertainment. It is impossible to know about all existing games, but learning something new is always interesting and pleasant – after all, you probably haven’t even heard of “Dogs and Jackals” before?

What games do you like? Write in our Telegram chat!

If you want to expand your horizons even more, be sure to read our article about the benefits of Tetris for the human psyche. You can also read about why millions of people played chess during the Soviet era, but today fewer and fewer people are interested in this game.