NERDS.


Ancient nerds. Look at this: an icosahedral die from somewhere between 30 and 300 BCE. Egyptians were throwing d20s back before Jesus worshippers founded the cult that would eventually call D&D satanic.

icosahedraldice

“You’ll have to roll a θ to hit that lemure, dude.”

Comments

  1. azhael says

    O_O
    If you squint hard you can almost make out the dorito’s stains.
    I must have stone carved, 20 dice…i deserve them….

  2. Larry says

    How totally cool are those things. Given the amount of work it must have taken to grind a couple of rocks to such geometric precision, they must have been for royalty or the priesthood. I bet the bros working on the pyramids were forced to use cheap, plastic knock-offs.

  3. David Marjanović says

    Would an omega be a critical hit?

    I’m pretty sure omega isn’t on the dice.

    Given the amount of work it must have taken to grind a couple of rocks to such geometric precision, they must have been for royalty or the priesthood. I bet the bros working on the pyramids were forced to use cheap, plastic knock-offs.

    Day saved.

  4. brucemartin says

    Despite being a ghost, a lemure must be a real thing, because st. Augustine believed in them, and he knew theology.

  5. says

    David @12: You know, it never occurred to me before now that the Ancient Greeks must have had their own numeral system. Neat!

  6. says

    Sigh. Wake up, get basic concept wrong on the internet, drink coffee, find out someone’s corrected me. This is a recurring theme in my life.

    Since I am an atheist thought leader (I thought I was leading something once) I am instead going to double down on what I said earlier and rip off commenters #s 7 and 11. The pyramids are buried d8’s. Or alien dice because aliens.

  7. consciousness razor says

    So the pyramid-dice somehow landed on a point, then instantly got buried in hundreds of feet of sand? Those ancient aliens do some amazing stuff.

  8. twas brillig (stevem) says

    OMENS!! Clues to what is going to happen next. “theta” + “epsilon” == “look behind you!”
    .
    They only found 2 dice? Maybe they had more and rolling ’em all at once would let them spell out explicit instructions for what to expect tomorrow.
    My memory fails; isn’t greek alphabet 20 characters long? so maybe roll 5 of these and spell out a 5 letter word…

  9. David Chapman says

    consciousness razor #16

    Those ancient aliens do some amazing stuff.

    There would be little point in being an ancient alien if you didn’t.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I am soooooo happy to see these.

    I’d also be happy to see the cheap plastic knockoffs used by the plebes, of course, but these dice?

    They rock.

  11. says

    Greek did not have numerals: they used letters of the alphabet — specifically, the Ionic alphabet, which included letters that were eventually dropped. Alpha through theta meant 1 through 9 (with the archaic letter digamma for 6; you will find it below and to the left of theta in the second picture.) Iota started the series of 10s, with kappa = 20, lambda = 30, and so on until pi = 80 and the archaic letter qoppa = 90. Rho started the series of hundreds, with omega = 800 and the archaic letter sampi = 900. Being a d20, it would have characters for 1-9, 10-90, 100, and 200. A pair would give a roll of 2-400; I’m not sure about the distribution curve, but it would be interesting to find out.

    Most likely, the die was used for oracular purposes: roll several dice, add up the result, then look up the number in a reference book.

  12. Manu of Deche says

    /unlurk

    Huge dice worshipper/addict/nerd here, anyone looking for dice made out of stone (mostly semi-precious stones) should a google (or bing or whatever) Crystal Caste Dwarven Stones. I would put a link here but I’m not sure if commercial links are okay.
    Anyway, have fun spendind all your money ;-)

    /relurk

  13. Manu of Deche says

    I forgot the most important thing, sorry:
    those ancient dice are waaay cooler than anything I have, and now I am afraid I must have replicas, resin would be okay, but stone… Sigh, one can dream.

  14. Akira MacKenzie says

    fpjeromeiv @2 and PZ @4

    I’m sure if you dig, you’ll discover that the pyramids are half-buried d8s.

  15. Crimson Clupeidae says

    But did they find the rulebook? I want to see the (really) first edition D&D, written in hieroglyphics!

    Those dice are cool.

  16. blf says

    [D]id they find the rulebook? I want to see the (really) first edition D&D, written in hieroglyphics!

    Nah, the rules in hieroglyphics would be a copy and(probably) translation. The original rulebook was taken back by the ancient astronauts who helped them build the half-buried d8’s, and now is back in the Sirius star system.

  17. garysturgess says

    Some interesting thoughts here:
    – Was Alexander the Great a killer DM, or did he fall more along Monty Hall lines?
    – Were the rules for Divine Intervention just, “Yell ‘Yo Zeus, how’s about saving my fighter from that demilich?'” and then waiting for a bolt of lightning?
    – Will WotC coast be sued for using Socrates patented d20 rules for 3rd edition?
    – What was Plato’s take on munchkins?
    – Did Aristotle have any useful tips on balancing high level encounters, or did they just stop playing at about level 10?
    – What was Pythagorus’ recorded response to his first view of a d10?

  18. David Marjanović says

    the archaic letter digamma for 6; you will find it below and to the left of theta in the second picture

    No, that’s just the alpha again.

  19. Tethys says

    How cool! I too am very impressed with the hand carving skills evident in the straight edges and crisp outline of the numbers. I then noticed that only some of the 20 symbols are visible in those photos and went looking for more information. Voila, there is a company called shapeways that makes replicas of this die. Their description is as follows

    This die is a replica of a 20-sided die from ancient Egypt, dated from some time between the 2nd century B.C. – 4th century A.D. (Ptolemaic/Roman periods) and inscribed with the first twenty letters of the Greek alphabet. It is based on examples in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and features the same alphabetic variant seen on those (for example, the unusual alpha and the C-like Coptic “sima” in place of sigma). Originals were made out of serpentine or faience, so sandstone seems like the most appropriate material for printing this one, though it would also be a nifty conversation piece in metal or alumide. Evidently the makers of the originals were aware of the five Platonic solids, including the icosahedron, and ancient gamers were quick to recognize the usefulness of such a shape for creating random game results. While it is unknown precisely what game these dice were used for, the letters had recognized numerical correspondents, and they could have served for anything from gambling at Nile river boat parties to roleplaying sessions among archeogeeks.

    I would have included a snarky comment about them being the perfect thing for casting lots but the price is very reasonable so I won’t quibble.