The Senet Game. A Path to Eternity in Ancient Egypt.

The senet was a board game in Ancient Egypt.

In the daily life it was just a leisure game. In the funerary sphere it was more than just a game, but a way to reach the eternity.

Basics on the Senet Game.

The board was made of wood and was formed by thirty squares arranged in three rows of ten. Just the last five squares had decoration and/or inscriptions. A very important point as we will see.

The mechanics of the game should be very simple. Two players threw dices, sticks or small bones and had to move forward the thirty squares which formed the board, from left to right and from up to down. The winner was the one reaching the last square.

A lion and a gazelle are playing the senet game. The lion is even holding a dice. Scene from the Satirical Papyrus of British Museum. Ramessie Period. Deir el-Medina. Photo: British Museum

The Senet Game in the Funerary Sphere.

As many things from daily life of Ancient Egypt, we know the senet game thanks to the depictions in the tomb walls and also because many boards were part of the funerary equipment.

Many depictions in tomb walls, specially from the Ramesside Period, show the deceased playing on his own in front of the senet board. He is not playing alone, but against the death. By reaching the end of the board, the dead won the eternity.

Sennedjem is depicted playing with no adversary the senet game. From his tomb in Deir el-Medina. Dynasty XIX. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

At that point it is essencial to deal with the decoration of the lasts squares of the senet game. Because they demonstrate precisely that the game for the dead was a kind of race until the eternal life.

As already said, just the last five squares were decorated and not in all boards remains the complete decoration, but the images and hierglypghs from the three lasts ones proof that they were the lasts steps to reach the eternity….

…we will see it in the next post.

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