Mehen (game)

Mehen (game)

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Mehen is a board game
Board game
A board game is a game which involves counters or pieces being moved on a pre-marked surface or "board", according to a set of rules. Games may be based on pure strategy, chance or a mixture of the two, and usually have a goal which a player aims to achieve...

 that was played in ancient Egypt
History of Ancient Egypt
The History of Ancient Egypt spans the period from the early predynastic settlements of the northern Nile Valley to the Roman conquest in 30 BC...

. The game was named in reference to Mehen
In Ancient Egypt the name Mehen meaning 'coiled one' refers to a mythological snake-god and to a game.-Snake god:The earliest references to Mehen occur in the Coffin Texts. Mehen is a protective deity who is depicted as a snake which coils around the sun god Ra during his journey through the...

, a serpent god protecting Ra
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun...

 during his night-time underworld journey. Nothing else is known about it than that paintings and equipment found suggest that it is a game.

History of the game

Evidence of the game of Mehen is found dating from approximately 3000 BC and continues until 2300 BC. Some of the best evidence appears during the Old Kingdom, in a picture in the tomb of Hesy-Ra
Hesy-Ra was an official, physician and scribe who lived during the Third dynasty of Egypt, served under the pharaoh Djoser, and was buried in an elaborate tomb at Saqqara...

. It is depicted in tombs of about 700 BC, but the board seems to have been misinterpreted as a vase, presumably because an Old Kingdom relief was copied by someone not familiar with the game itself.

It is known that the board depicts a game
A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements...

 rather than being a religious object due to studies of paintings in tombs, and game boards and equipment found. None of the associated objects fit neatly within the segments of the snake. The rules and methods of play are completely unknown; a shareware computer program contains a guess at how it may have been played.

The relationship between the snake-god and the game is unknown.

The game

The board depicts a coiled snake whose body is divided into rectangular spaces. Several boards have been found with different numbers of segments, without distinguishing marks or ornamentation. The variability suggests that the number of segments was of little importance to the game.

Objects associated with the board may or may not be playing pieces. From archaeological evidence, the game seems to have been played with lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

- or lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

ess-shaped game pieces, in sets of 3 or as many as 6, and a few small spheres (marbles
A marble is a small spherical toy usually made from glass, clay, steel, or agate. These balls vary in size. Most commonly, they are about ½ inch in diameter, but they may range from less than ¼ inch to over 3 inches , while some art glass marbles fordisplay purposes are over 12 inches ...

A ball is a round, usually spherical but sometimes ovoid, object with various uses. It is used in ball games, where the play of the game follows the state of the ball as it is hit, kicked or thrown by players. Balls can also be used for simpler activities, such as catch, marbles and juggling...


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