ARISC Presentation in Baku “Hounds and Jackals and Fifty-Eight Holes: Ancient Mesopotamian Board Games in Azerbaijan?”

Walter Crist
Arizona State University, American Museum of Natural History, ARISC member

Date: April 16, 2018
Time: 11 AM
Venue: 115 Huseyn Javid Ave, Archaeology Institute of ANAS

This event is sponsored by ARISC and hosted by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of ANAS.

The game of 58 holes-better known as “Hounds and Jackals”- was a popular game in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the wider Near East during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Though its origins are unclear, it is obvious that this game enjoyed wide popularity for a considerable amount of time, and traveled across cultural boundaries, as it has been found in locations including Nubia, Iran, and Anatolia. Now, there is evidence that this game may have been played in ancient Azerbaijan, as well.
Patterns of depressions, found pecked into bedrock as well as on stone slabs, have been found in Eastern Azerbaijan, in the Absheron Peninsula and Gobustan National Park, in particular. This paper will discuss the similarities between these objects and the Near Eastern game of 58 Holes, and discuss possibilities for how it might have gotten there and what social implications games may have had in ancient Azeri society. This paper will draw from previous work in Cyprus, which found that the performative nature of play was emphasized by those who played during peoples of socio-economic complexity.
Through these examples, the importance of studying ancient games will be discussed, and future plans for examining the chronology and archaeological context of games in Azerbaijan will be proposed to address similar questions.

Speaker’s bio:
Walter Crist is a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and a Visiting Researcher in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. He received his PhD in 2016 in Anthropology from Arizona State University. His dissertation research focused on board games in Bronze Age Cyprus and changing practices of play alongside increasing socio-economic inequality. His research interests include ancient play, long-distance cultural interaction, trade, and materiality.