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Money, Prices, and Banking
From Barter System to Market. Before the rise of cities, individual households in Mesopotamia produced most of what they consumed. Within small villages and settlements, one household could trade or barter its goods with other households. In a simple barter transaction, participants exchange a product or service for a different product or service on terms both parties consider fair and equitable that is, the good or service received is deemed worth the good or service given up. Over time, as individuals and individual households began increasingly to specialize in one of an ever-wider variety of goods and services, the network of exchange grew more complex. The brewer, for example, might seek to exchange his beer with a potter for storage jars the potter, in turn, might seek to trade his wares for the services of the barber the barber might seek to exchange a haircut and a shave for new blades from the metalsmith and the metalsmith with a surplus of sickle blades might seek to obtain fine beer from the brewer for his daughter’s wedding banquet. To facilitate such complex exchanges, markets developed, allowing groups of producers and consumers to meet simultaneously. Established markets stimulated further specialization and also attracted producers and consumers from other regions.
Weights and Measures. As markets evolved, systems of weights and measures were developed, enabling producers and consumers to set values for each other’s products. In Mesopotamia, weights were typically fashioned out of stone in the shape of animals. A popular shape was a duck with its head reversed and resting on its back. After conquering and uniting southern Mesopotamia, king Sargon of Akkad (circa 2334 b.c.e. - circa 2279 b.c.e.) standardized the system of weights and measures throughout his new dominion. He and subsequent kings boasted of their efforts at standardization as a mark of the order and economic advancement that they had brought to the people under their rule. Ur-Namma (circa 2112 - circa 3095 b.c.e.), founder of the Ur III Dynasty, mentioned weights and measures in the prologue to his laws:
I fashioned the copper bariga-mtzsuit and standardized it at 60 silas (liters). I fashioned the copper seah-measure and standardized it at 10 silas. … I standardized (all) the stone weights from the pure (?) 1 sheqel (weight) to the 1 mina (60 sheqel weight). I fashioned the bronze 1-sila measure and standardized it at 1 mina. (Roth)
King Shulgi (circa 2094 - circa 2047 b.c.e.), son and successor of Ur-Namma, reformed accounting procedures and the calendar, tools that played a role in the redistributive economy he established throughout his realm. Ensuring fair trade was a vital obligation of a king, as demonstrated by the Laws of Hammurabi (circa 1750 b.c.e.), in which a large number of measures are dedicated to regulating business transactions. One describes the penalty for a lender who used two different systems of weights and measures in order to cheat a borrower:
If a merchant gives grain or silver as an interest-bearing loan, and when he gives it as an interest-bearing loan he gives the silver according to the small weight or the grain according to the small measure, but when he receives payment he receives the silver according to the large weight or the grain according to the large measure, that merchant shall forfeit all that he gave (as the loan). (LH gap § x Roth)
Prices. The term price is defined as the quantity of money or goods asked for or given in exchange for something else. In general, price is an index of demand. Rising prices indicate increasing demand likewise, falling prices indicate decreasing demand. Prices far higher than usual for basic foodstuffs, such as bread, may be an indicator of want or famine in the land. Prices can indicate the prosperity—or poverty—of the land, and stable prices are indicators of the stability of society and the economy. They are of concern, therefore, to rulers as well as their subjects, and prices of common goods are found in royal inscriptions as concrete illustrations of the health of the economy and the well-being of the people during a king’s reign. The reforms of the Early Dynastic III period ruler of Lagash, Uru’inimgina (circa 2380 b.c.e.), list the prevailing prices of his day, as do the laws of the city of Eshnunna (circa 1770 b.c.e.), which open with a statement of what can be purchased for one sheqel of silver and for a measure of grain this information is followed by the cost to hire certain services. The text also specifies interest rates for loans of silver and of grain. In hard times, such as during drought or a siege, highly inflated prices (expressed as the low purchasing power of the sheqel) appear in the textual record as indicators of die extent of the economic want die land is suffering. In the aftermath of the destruction of Akkad (circa 2200 b.c.e.), the narrator of The Cursing of Agade lamented:
In those days, oil for one (silver) sheqel was only half a liter, grain for one sheqel was only half a liter, wool for one sheqel was only one mina, fish for one sheqel filled only a one ban measure—these sold at such prices in the markets of the cities! (Black et al.)
On the other hand, in the coronation prayer of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668 - circa 627 b.c.e.), blessings for the new king and his reign included:
With one sheqel of silver, may the resident of Ashur obtain 30 kur of grain!
With one sheqel of silver, may the resident of Ashur obtain 3 seahs of oil!
With one sheqel of silver, may the resident of Ashur obtain 30 minas of wool! (translation by the author, after Livingstone’s edition)
During the period from the mid-seventh through the mid-first centuries b.c.e., texts now known as astronomical diaries—primarily records of the day-by-day observations of the positions of the sun, moon, and planets—also included data on the purchasing power of the sheqel for six basic commodities: barley, dates, mustard, cress, sesame, and wool. Typically, the diaries—whose entries can be dated precisely to the year, month, and day—list the commodity prices at the end of each month. Some, however, give the prices for the beginning, middle, and end of each month, while others chart virtually day-by-day fluctuations throughout the month.
A Look Back in Credit and Debt Collection Time – Ancient Sumer
It is believed that one of the first western urban civilizations, Sumer, is also the place where the first commercial and consumer loans were provided. You may ask, “Where is Sumer?”
Sumer is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, which is modern day southern Iraq. As the area was regularly flooded by the Tigris and Euphrates river system, leaving rich sediment behind when the waters receded, Sumerian farmers were able to grow an abundance of grain and other crops. This steady food source enabled them to settle in one place leading to a large area with several urban centers numbering into the tens of thousands.
The Sumerians developed arithmetic, multiplication (and division), geometry, and algebra which became the mathematical tools to record and analyze their business transactions. Gradually, large temples, which also doubled as centers of money, kept accounts on clay tablets of who owed what and when, designated in the currency of barley or silver.
Commercial credit and agricultural consumer loans became very prevalent with trade credit being provided to finance trade expeditions. The interest rate on these loans was set at one shekel per mina per month. A mina is a unit of weight for silver and was divided into 50 shekels.
Periodically, Sumerian rulers signed “clean slate” decrees that cancelled all the rural (but not commercial) loans and allowed bondservants to return to their homes. Customarily, rulers did this at the beginning of the first full year of their reign but they could also be proclaimed at times of military conflict or crop failure.
Discovering the Royal Game of Ur
This watercolor image was created by Penn Museum artist Mary Louise Baker in the early 1930s and appeared as Plate 95 in Ur Excavations Volume 2. PM image 299176.
Leonard Woolley found the remains of shell inlaid game boards, along with disk-shaped game pieces and four-sided dice, in a few of the royal tombs at Ur. All of the boards had a distinctive notched shape, and this same form has been found carved onto bricks. It has typically been called the “Royal Game of Ur,” but even though royalty had the finest boards, commoners played the game too.
Luckily, a much later cuneiform tablet tells us how at least one version of the game was played. The board consists of a square made of 16 places joined to a rectangle of 8 places. The notch created by the join is where pieces enter and leave to complete a circuit. The game is a strategy race, essentially a predecessor to backgammon. Each player attempts to complete a circuit with all of their pieces while also trying to block or disrupt their opponent’s circuit.
This partial gameboard from Ur is made of engraved shell plaques, limestone, and lapis lazuli. PM object B16742. This game board was found in many pieces in royal tomb PG 580. It was restored but is still just over half of the overall board. In fact, 4 1/2 other squares existed but are not in this reconstruction. PM object B16742.
The History of Jewelry, from Ancient Mesopotamia to Today
Gold Sandals and Toe Stalls, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Thutmose III, ca. 1479–1425 BCE, from Egypt, upper Egypt, Thebes, Wadi Gabbanat el-Qurud, Wadi D, Tomb of the 3 Foreign Wives of Thutmose III, gold, sandals: L. 10 3/8 inches, W. 3 15/16 inches W. at heel 2 3/4 inches (image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1922 , and Fletcher Fund, 1921–22)
J ewelry: The Body Transformed features some 230 intriguing objects from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s vast collection, from ancient Egyptian flip-flops made of gold to Alexander Calder’s loopy “Jealous Husband Necklace.” The exhibit demonstrates both the pitfalls and successes of a collection show Transformed is loosely held together by an uninspired curatorial concept that is contrived to bring together motley items. However, it also demonstrates the impressive depth of the Met’s collection — the jewelry does not disappoint.
Marriage Necklace (Thali), late 19th century, India (Tamil Nadu, Chetiar), gold strung on black thread, bottom of central bead to end of counterweight: L. 33 1/4 inches (image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Cynthia Hazen Polsky, 1991)
“Jewelry is the world’s oldest art form, predating cave paintings by tens of thousands of years,” states the exhibition’s introductory wall text. The distinction between fine art, craft, and fashion is conveniently blurred in this bold statement — isn’t clothing an art form? It likely predates jewelry — but the notions that humans used their bodies as the first canvases is certainly intriguing. Unfortunately, the exhibition doesn’t continue with this level of curatorial boldness. Instead, Transformed is divided into blandly broad thematic sections: The Divine Body The Regal Body The Transcendent Body The Alluring Body and The Resplendent Body. These categories are too vague — and in the case of “alluring” and “resplendent,” too alike — to provide a stimulating organizational lens. The strength of the show therefore resides in its dazzling individual objects — including ear ornaments, necklaces, nose rings, headdresses, and other baubles — whose function and effect often transcend the stated thematic categories.
Jeweled Bracelets (500–700), made in probably Constantinople, gold, silver, pearl, amethyst, sapphire, opal, glass, quartz, emerald plasma, overall: 1 7/16 x 3 1/4 inches (image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917)
Some of the obvious appeal of Transformed is, simply, beautiful things. For example, while viewers are likely familiar with bracelets, rings, necklaces, and brooches, toe stalls might be a revelation. Gold sandals with accompanying individual toe covers ( ca. 1479–1425 BCE) from the tomb of a wife of Thutmose III were meant to keep the body of a piece in the afterlife. Each toe stall is solid gold, and complete with a toenail imprint. Even though the origin of these pieces was funerary in nature, it’s hard to not feel a seductive joy at the notion of covering each individual toe in gold — like toenail polish or a toe ring but much more sumptuous. Another personal favorite is a large bronze brooch with spirals (1200–800 BCE) from the Carpathian Basin region. With its use of a simple, abstract form, the piece looks incredibly modern. The spiral was a popular motif in jewelry from the European Bronze Age (3200–600 BCE) it likely had a spiritual meaning and also served to show off the bronze-smithing skills of its maker.
Large Brooch with Spirals (1200–800 BCE), made in Carpathian Basin region, bronze, 10 15/16 x 4 x 2 9/16 inches (image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Caroline Howard Hyman Gift, in memory of Margaret English Frazer, 2000)
The exhibition is most interesting when it presents jewelry in the explicit context of gender or class. Items associated with marriage serve this function particularly well. A late 19th century marriage necklace from southern India is over two feet long. Constructed of gold on black thread, its heaviness is such that counterweights where the clasp might traditionally be balanced sit atop a wearer’s shoulders. The piece’s ornaments are meant to reference floral garlands, and it functioned both as a religious and spiritual symbol and as a literal manifestation of the wealth a bride brought to her marriage. The necklace is so startlingly heavy, so gaudy, and so overpowering to the average female form. It is a reminder of the weight of marriage for women in many eras — adornment functioning here as a literal bodily prison, and as an external manifestation of the concept that a woman was a piece of monetary wealth for her in-laws.
Broad collar of Senebtisi, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, late–early 13 (ca. 1850–1775 BCE), from Egypt, Memphite Region, Lisht North, Tomb of Senwosret (758), Pit 763, burial of Senebtisi, MMA excavations, 1906–07, faience, gold, carnelian, turquoise, falcon heads and leaf pendants originally gilded plaster, restored in gilded silver, eyes originally gilded beads restored in gilded plaster, outside diameter 9 13/16 inches, max w. 2 15/16 inches (image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1908)
A more focused curatorial lens might have teased out how jewelry cemented or circumvented gender and class. While the exhibition touches on these issues throughout every section, sometimes explicitly, the exploration of these topics could have been deeper. Another possible lens would have been an examination of artistry: Who made these objects? How was skill passed down? Why were certain materials used? Even with Transformed’s frustrating organization, it’s a worthwhile show for anyone interested in craftsmanship, material culture’s relationship to power, or, simply, shiny beautiful things.
Pair of gold earrings with Ganymede and the eagle, Hellenistic, ca. 330–300 BCE, gold, rock crystal, emerald
H. 2 3/8 inches (image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1937 )
Jewelry: The Body Transformed continues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through February 24. The exhibition represents a collaborative partnership of six curators—lead curator Melanie Holcomb, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, consulting curator Beth Carver Wees, the Ruth Bigelow Wriston Curator of American Decorative Arts, The American Wing Kim Benzel, Curator in Charge, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art Diana Craig Patch, the Lila Acheson Wallace Curator in Charge, Department of Egyptian Art Soyoung Lee, the Landon and Lavinia Chief Curator, Harvard Art Museums and Joanne Pillsbury, the Andrall E. Pearson Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas—assisted by Hannah Korn, Collections Management Coordinator, Medieval Art and The Cloisters, with Moira Gallagher, Research Assistant, The American Wing.
Key Facts & Information
GEOGRAPHICAL AND HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
- Most of Ancient Mesopotamia was located in what today is the country of Iraq. Mesopotamia was known as the land between two rivers. The Tigris River ran along the north and the Euphrates River ran along the south.
- These rivers flow into the Persian Gulf. The area is also known as “The Fertile Crescent”. Mesopotamia was approximately 300 miles long and 150 miles wide.
- The land of Ancient Mesopotamia experienced many floods, but today the area is mostly desert. The flooding was a challenge to the farmers. They had to learn to control and work with it.
- The invention of irrigation was extremely important, because it allowed the people to plant during the hot, dry season. The fertile land produced crops such as many fruits, vegetables, flax, barley, wheat, and sesame. , cattle, goats, and pigs were being raised by the farmers. The seeder plow, invented by the Mesopotamians, was a major achievement. It allowed farmers to plow their land and seed it at the same time.
- Ancient Mesopotamia is where the world’s first cities appeared between 4000 – 3500 BC. Before this time, most people lived on farms in the country. City life allowed the people to work together for the common good. It is believed an ancient site, called Eridu, was the first city that was ever created.
WAY OF LIFE AND ACHIEVEMENTS
- Ancient Mesopotamia is considered the cradle of civilization, because the people of this culture developed many things such as government, written language, religion, agriculture, and cities. The Ancient Mesopotamians developed sanitation techniques, the Pythagorean theorem, and glass.
- They revolutionized transportation around 3500 BC by inventing the wheel and were among the first to harness the wind as an energy source by using the sail.
- The Sumerians of Ancient Mesopotamia are credited with inventing the earliest form of writing. The writings on tablets were of simple pictures, or pictograms, which represented an object or an idea.
- Clay was a difficult material to draw on, so the Mesopotamians eventually reduced pictograms into a series of wedge-shaped signs that they pressed into clay with a stylus. This wedge-shaped writing is called cuneiform.
- This invention of writing was a huge advancement, because it allowed information to be carried from place to place accurately.
- The Ancient Mesopotamians developed the arch and column. They were masters of construction using bricks made of mud. Brick-making was a major Mesopotamian industry, especially in the south, where wood was in short supply and there was no stone. Over the centuries, rains and shifting sands destroyed much of southern Mesopotamia’s mud-brick architecture. Only crumbled mounds remain as evidence of the great cities that once stood in the deserts of southern Iraq.
- The Ancient Mesopotamians worshipped hundreds of gods. Ordinary people depended on a relationship with their own personal god – like a guardian angel – who protected them and talked to the other gods on their behalf. Every city had its own god or goddess. There were also gods that were connected to different professions. The major gods were:
- Anu was the father of the gods and the god of the sky
- Enlil was the god of the air
- Utu was the sun god and the lord of truth and justice
- Nanna was the moon god
- Inanna was the goddess of love and war
- Ninhursag was the goddess of earth
- Enki was the god of fresh water as well as the lord of wisdom and magic
Ancient Mesopotamia Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Ancient Mesopotamia across 19 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Ancient Mesopotamia worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Mesopotamia which is a name for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, corresponding to modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, the northeastern section of Syria, and to a much lesser extent southeastern Turkey and smaller parts of southwestern Iran.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Ancient Mesopotamia Facts
- Mapping Mesopotamia
- The Cuneiform
- The Banquet Plaque
- Then…& Today…
- Mesopotamian Technology
- The Fertile Crescent
- Fascinating Civilization
- Mesopotamian Life
- Ancient Empires
- Mesopotamian Archeology
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.
A One-mina Weight from Southern Mesopotamia - History
Mesopotamia—an ancient land that once hosted a diverse and rich culture. Today, the ancient land is celebrated for its rich history of culture, warfare and trade. In fact, Mesopotamia is considered one of the oldest fully realized civilizations in the world. Many scholars have given Mesopotamia the name, ‘the cradle of civilization.’ Today, what remains of Mesopotamia is found in parts of Turkey, Syria and most of Iraq.
Mesopotamia Facts for Kids
1. Mesopotamia is also known as ‘land between rivers’ – it was located between two major rivers known as the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
2. The entirety of the region was located in present day Iraq and parts of Syria and Turkey.
3. Mesopotamia’s northern region consisted of plains, where many people cultivated crops and raised cattle. The southern region housed jungles, rich soil and various marine life. The soil in the southern area was where much of their farming happened.
4. Although they had a fertile land, people of Mesopotamia did have to import goods like timber, hard stones and metals from places in the East and North.
5. Mesopotamia was believed to have been founded around 5500 BCE (before common era).
6. Lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone imported from Afghanistan, eventually become one of the hallmarks of Mesopotamia artwork and jewelry. Lapis stones were used in the eyes of Mesopotamia artwork of gods and goddesses.
7. People of Mesopotamia developed a common religious belief system, where they worshiped a patron god or goddess at designated temples throughout their land.
Cities of Mesopotamia
8. Uruk was one of Mesopotamia’s biggest cities. The city’s patron goddess was Inanna, the Goddess of Live and War.
9. The earliest form of writing on record was discovered in Uruk: pictures drawn on clay.
10. The pictorial writing eventually developed into cuneiform, the earliest known writing system in the world, best known for its wedge-like shapes that were etched into clay tablets. Sumerian was the most common language seen on Mesopotamia cuneiform.
11. Ur was another one of Mesopotamia’s largest cities. Sumerian was its most common written language, but was rarely spoken.
12. Ur was the home of famous buildings that were known as ziggurats. These shrines were created as the center of the city, where many people met to socialize and worship.
13. Many ziggurats were built tall some were said to have reached height as tall as 200 feet!
Did You Know?
14. Brick-making became a major industry throughout Mesopotamia.
15. People of Mesopotamia were the first to understand the concept of the number zero. They were also the first to start experimenting with mathematics.
16. People of Mesopotamia used weight to barter, buy and sell items.
17. Many believe that people of Mesopotamia invented the sailboat.
LSD is just one mind-altering substance in a class of drugs called hallucinogens, which cause people to have hallucinations—things that someone sees, hears or feels that appear to be real but are in fact created by the mind.
LSD users call these hallucinogenic experiences “trips,” and LSD is a particularly strong hallucinogen. Because its effects are unpredictable, there’s no way to know when taking the drug whether a user will have a good trip or not.
Depending on how much a person takes or how their brain responds, a trip can be pleasurable and enlightening, or, during a trip,” a user may have terrifying thoughts or feel out of control.
Long after they’ve taken the drug, some users experience flashbacks, when parts of the trip return without using the drug again. Researchers think LSD flashbacks may happen during times of increased stress.
Rollin’ Bones: The History of Dice
Archaeologists can&rsquot pinpoint the first human who threw dice, but they do know this: Unlike many customs that started in one place and then spread, dice-throwing appeared independently all across the populated world. The oldest known dice -dating back at least 8,000 years- consisted of found objects such as fruit pits, pebbles, and seashells. But the direct precursors of today&rsquos dice were bone: the ankle bones of hoofed animals, such as sheep and oxen. These bones -later called astragali by the Greeks- were chosen because they are roughly cube-shaped, with two rounded sides that couldn&rsquot be landed on, and four flat ones that could. Which side would be facing up after a toss, or a series of tosses, was as much a gamble to our ancestors as it is to us today.
The first dice throwers weren&rsquot gamers, though -they were religious shamans who used astragali (as well as sticks, rocks, or even animal entrails) for divination, the practice of telling the future by interpreting signs from the gods. How did these early dice make their way from the shaman to the layman? According to David Schwartz in Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling:
The line between divination and gambling is blurred. One hunter, for example, might say to another, &ldquoIf the bones land short side up, we will search for game to the south if not, we look north,&rdquo thus using the astragali to plumb the future. But after the hunt, the hunters might cast bones to determine who would go home with the most desirable cuts.
And with that, gambling -and dice gaming- was born, leading to the next big step in dice evolution. Around 7,000 years ago, ancient Mesopotamians carved down the rounded sides of the astragali to make them even more cube-like. Now they could land on one of six sides, allowing the outcome to become more complex. As their technology advanced, materials such as ivory, wood, and whalebone were used to make dice. (Image credit: Swiss Museum of Games)
It is believed that the shamans were the first ones to make marks on the sides of the dice, but it didn&rsquot take long for them to roll into the rest of society. Dice first appeared in board games in Ur, a city in southern Mesopotamia. Now referred to as the &ldquoRoyal Game of Ur,&rdquo this early version of backgammon (circa 3,000 BC) used four-sided, pyramidal dice.
However, the most common dice, then and now, are six-sided cubic hexahedrons with little dots, or pips, to denote their values. The pip pattern still in use today -one opposite six, two opposite five, and three opposite four- first appeared in Mesopotamia circa 1300 BC, centuries before the introduction of Arabic numerals.
WHEN IN ROME
In the first millennium BC, civilizations thrived in Greece, India, and China- and they all threw dice. In Rome, it was common for gamblers to call out the goddess Fortuna&rsquos name while rolling a 20-sided die during a game of chance. But they had to do it quietly -dice games were illegal in Rome (except during the winter solstice festival of Saturnalia). Not that that stopped anyone from playing it: One surviving fresco depicts two quarreling dicers being thrown out of a public house by the proprietor.
* When General Julius Caesar led his army across the Rubicon River to attack Rome in 49 BC -which set in motion his rise to power- he knew that there was no turning back, proclaiming, &rdquoLea iacta est.&rdquo Translation: &ldquoThe die is cast.&rdquo
* Later Roman leaders were also dice aficionados, including Mark Antony, Caligula (he was notorious for cheating), Claudius, Nero, and Commodus, who built special dicing rooms in his palace.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, many of civilization&rsquos advancements and inventions fell out of use. Not dice, though- their use continued through the Middle Ages, being one of the few leisure activities affordable to peasants. In the rest of the world, dice played an important role among the tribes and indigenous peoples of Africa and the Americas, for both recreation and divination. And in 12th-century China, a variation of a dice game led to the introduction of dominoes, which are basically flattened-out dice.
But it was in Medieval Europe that the popularity of dice game soared, starting in the 1100s with a game called Hazard that was played by both aristocrats and commoners. &ldquoThey dance and play at dice both day and night,&rdquo wrote Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. These games were so popular that over the ensuing centuries dice guilds and schools formed all over western Europe. That didn&rsquot stop the Catholic Church from attempting to ban all gambling games, though. Over the next few hundred years, dozens of popes, bishops, and priests instituted bans against dicing games. And just like in ancient Rome, the bans didn&rsquot stop people from playing them.
A CRAPPY ORIGIN
It was inevitable then, that dice traveled aboard the ships emigrating to the New World (the religious Pilgrims on the Mayflower were none too fond of the crew&rsquos gambling games). In colonial America, the game of Hazard was introduce by the French in New Orleans, who called it crapaud, meaning &ldquotoad.&rdquo The game became popular with slaves, who shortened the name to craps, which is still the most popular gambling dice game in the the United States. And in the early 20th century, board games like Monopoly became popular, guaranteeing that nearly every American home would have at least one set of dice.
PAIR OF DICE LOST
Where there is gaming, there is cheating. While ancient civilizations may have believed the gods were responsible for the outcome of the roll, many unscrupulous players felt the need to give the gods a little help. Loaded dice -as well as dice with the corners shaved off- were found in the ruins of Pompeii. When wooden dice were common, enterprising gamblers would grow small trees around pebbles then they&rsquod carve the dice with the weight inside, leaving no visible marks.
Modern cheaters are just as crafty in their methods. One type of trick dice are trappers: Drops of mercury are loaded into a center reservoir by holding the die a certain way and tapping it against a table, the mercury travels down a tunnel to another reservoir, subtly weighting the die. Another trick is to fill a die with wax that melts at just below body temperature: Held in a closed fist, the wax melts, settling to the desired side.
Today casinos spend millions trying to thwart cheaters in a high tech war of wits using extremely sensitive equipment to detect even the slightest alteration in a pair of suspect dice. And to keep people from bringing their own dice to the craps table, all casino dice have tiny serial numbers. A more radical way of stoping cheaters: virtual dice rolled by a computer. This not only makes loading dice impossible, but also allows craps players to &ldquoroll the bones&rdquo from the keypad of a cell phone. But nothing can replace the actual feeling of shaking the dice in your hands and letting them fly.
Dice made from the ankles of sheep are still used in Mongolia today. And they&rsquore just one type of thousands that exist. Have you ever rolled a 30-sided die -the highest number symmetrical polyhedron? Or how about the 100-sided die, called the Zocchihedron (invented in the 1980s by a gamer named Lou Zocchi)? There&rsquos also the no-sided die -a sphere with a moving internal weight that causes the sphere to stop rolling with one of its six numbers facing up. There are barrel dice (roughly cylindrical, with flat surfaces), letter dice (like in the game Boggle), playing card dice (often called &ldquopoker dice&rdquo), six-siders numbered zero through five, three-sided dice, doubling cubes (such as those used in backgammon), asymmetrical polyhedrons, and countless others.
And those are just the varieties used in gaming. Myriad other dice are used in cleromancy, the ancient practice of divining with dice. Tibetan Buddhists use a set of three dice made from conch shells to help make daily decisions. Astrologers use a set of 12-sided dice relating to the Zodiac signs. There are I Ching dice with trigrams and yin/yang symbols. And if you&rsquove ever shaken a Magic 8-Ball and asked it a question, you&rsquove practiced cleromancy: The responses -&ldquoYes,&rdquo &ldquoNo,&rdquo &ldquoAsk again,&rdquo &ldquoLater, &ldquo etc.- are printed on a 20-sided icosahedron.
Though rarely used in games since the Roman Empire, noncubical dice have made a resurgence in the past few decades. They were used for teaching arithmetic before they took hold of the world of gaming by storm, most notably in the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
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What's in a Name?
Her name and title are known from the short inscription on one of three cylinder seals found on her person. Although most women’s cylinder seals at the time would have read "wife of ___," this seal made no mention of her husband. Instead, it gave her name and title as queen. The two cuneiform signs that compose her name were initially read as "Shub-ad" in Sumerian. Today, however, we think they should be read in Akkadian as "Pu-abi" (or, more correctly, "Pu-abum," meaning "word of the Father"). Her title "eresh" (sometimes mistakenly read as "nin") means "queen."
In early Mesopotamia, women, even elite women, were generally described in relation to their husbands. For example, the inscription on the cylinder seal of the wife of the ruler of the city-state of Lagash (to the east of Ur) reads "Bara-namtara, wife of Lugal-anda, ruler of the city-state of Lagash." The fact that Puabi is identified without the mention of her husband may indicate that she was queen in her own right. If so, she probably reigned prior to the time of the First Dynasty of Ur, whose first ruler is known from the Sumerian King List as Mesannepada. Inscribed artifacts from the Seal Impression Strata (SIS) layers above the royal tombs at Ur name Mesannepada, King of Kish, an honorific used by rulers claiming control over all of southern Mesopotamia.
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