Monthly Archives: November 2014



Roman Game Board Found in Turkey

Archaeology news


Archaeologists working in the ancient city of Kibyra in the southern Turkish province of Burdur have discovered a game board dating to the first or second century C.E.Under the aegis of Mehmet Akif Ersoy University’s archaeology department, excavations were being conducted in the city’s agora.

The board belonged to a game called Ludus duodecim scriptorium (“game of 12 markings”)—XII scripta for short—which was popular throughout the Roman Empire. The name likely came from the three rows of 12 markings inscribed on most of the Roman game boards discovered. While not much is known about the rules, the game was played by two players with three dice and may have resembled the modern game backgammon.

According to the ancient Greek geographer Strabo, the early inhabitants of Kibyra may have descended from the Lydians, an Anatolian people (Strabo, Geography 13.4.17). Sometime in the second century B.C.E., the city formed a tetrapolis with three neighboring cities. The tetrapolis was dissolved in the first century B.C.E. and Kibyra was subsequently incorporated into the Roman province of Asia. Known for its ironworking industry, the city boasted a number of public structures, including a stadium, theater and odeon.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.


I love the Silk Road. I’ve been studying it since college and I once did a major paper on Buddhist missionary efforts Westward and Christian missionary efforts Eastwards along the Silk Road.

Superb discovery.

1,700-Year-Old Silk Road Cemetery Contains Mythical Carvings

by Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | November 24, 2014 07:40am ET

An ancient cemetery – silk road

[Pin It] A cemetery dating back around 1,700 years has been discovered in Kucha, a city in China. The city played an important role along the Silk Road trade routes that connected China to the Roman Empire. Archaeologists have uncovered 10 tombs in the cemetery, seven of which are large structures made with bricks. This image shows part of the cemetery facing north.
Credit: Chinese Cultural Relics

A cemetery dating back roughly 1,700 years has been discovered along part of the Silk Road, a series of ancient trade routes that once connected China to the Roman Empire.

The cemetery was found in the city of Kucha, which is located in present-day northwest China. Ten tombs were excavated, seven of which turned out to be large brick structures.

One tomb, dubbed “M3,” contained carvings of several mythical creatures, including four that represent different seasons and parts of the heavens: the White Tiger of the West, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the Black Turtle of the North and the Azure Dragon of the East. [See photos of the ancient Silk Road cemetery]

The M3 tomb also “consists of a burial mound, ramp, sealed gate, tomb entrance, screen walls, passage, burial chamber and side chamber” the researchers wrote in a report published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

The cemetery was first found in July 2007 and was excavated by the Xinjiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, with assistance from local authorities. The research team, led by Zhiyong Yu, director of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute, published the findings in Chinese in the journal Wenwu. The article was recently translated into English and published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

Who was buried here?

The identity of the people buried in the cemetery is a mystery. The cemetery had been robbed in the past and no writing was found that indicates the names of those buried or their positions in life.

The seven large brick tombs were likely constructed for people of wealth, the researchers said.

But, when the skeletal remains were analyzed, the researchers found that the tombs had been reused multiple times. Some of the tombs contain more than 10 occupants, and the “repeated multiple burials warrant further study,” the researchers wrote.

City on the Silk Road

The excavators think the cemetery dates back around 1,700 years, to a time when Kucha was vital to controlling the Western Frontiers (Xiyu) of China. Since the Silk Road trade routes passed through the Western Frontiers, control of this key region was important to China’s rulers.

“In ancient times, Kucha was called Qiuci in Chinese literature. It was a powerful city-state in the oasis of the Western Frontiers” the researchers wrote.

For the dynasties that flourished in China around 1,700 years ago “the conquest and effective governance of Kucha would enable them to control all the oasis city-states in the Western Frontiers,” the researchers said.

In fact, one ancient saying was, “if you have Kucha, only one percent of the states in the Western Frontiers remain unsubmissive.”

Chinese Cultural Relics is a new journal that translates Chinese-language articles, originally published in the journal Wenwu, into English. The discovery of the 1,700-year-old cemetery was included in its inaugural issue.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Editor’s Recommendations

8 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries
Gallery: Ancient Chinese Warriors Protect Secret Tomb
The Science of Death: 10 Tales from the Crypt & Beyond

Top 10 Bugs in Gaming

Viking Dogs Followed Their Masters to Valhalla

Viking Dog Gokstad Ship

The eight large dogs that were found in the Gokstad burial mound may have looked like this Irish Wolfhound. (Photo:

In Viking Age ship graves there have been found large amounts of animal bones: In the Gokstad burial mound dating back to about 900 AD, in addition to bones from two peacocks, several hawks and fourteen horses, it was found eight large sighthounds (Old Norse: mjór) buried on both sides outside the ship. Archaeologists also found a small lapdog buried inside the ship.

– Sighthounds are large dogs, which may resemble Irish Wolfhounds. They had a very high value. I have found that even small dogs had a high value by studying the Frostathing law. If somebody killed such a dog they had to pay a fine equivalent to the price of a thrall (slave), Assistant Professor Anne Karin Huftammer from the Natural History Collections at Bergen Museum told…

View original post 345 more words

The Remains of Hundreds of Butchered Soldiers from a Brutal Medieval Battle

Strange Remains

Skull from the mass graves associated with the Battle of Visby.  Image Credit: Xenophon on Wikipedia Skull from the mass graves associated with the Battle of Visby. Image Credit: Xenophon on Wikipedia

In 1361 the Danish king Valdemar IV invaded the island of Gotland, Sweden because it had a diverse population that included Danes, had wealthy inhabitants, and was strategically located in the Baltic Sea. A legion of Swedish peasants tried to stop the Danish army near the city of Visby, but the inexperienced Swedish soldiers were no match for the Danes and many of them were slaughtered. After the Gotlanders surrendered, the island became a part of the Danish kingdom for a short period of time until the Swedish crown reclaimed it in the early 15th century.

After the Battle of Visby, the fallen Gotland soldiers were buried in three mass graves near the city walls. In 1905 Dr. Oscar Wennersten exhumed a grave with 300 bodies, and between 1909 and 1928 archaeologists Bengt…

View original post 175 more words

Ancient handbook of spells deciphered

an update on translation…


An ancient Egyptian handbook of spells has been deciphered for the first time by researchers. The book contains spells, remedies, potions and more, and provides information about ancient practitioners and their methods.

View original post 274 more words

Sudan & Nubia volume 18

Medieval Sai Project

WordPress reminded us on Saturday that it was the fourth birthday of Medieval Sai Project @ wordpress platform!

One element that has characterized all these four years is the presentation of the new volumes of the peer-review journal of The Sudan Archaeological Research Society, titled Sudan & Nubia. Volume 14 was presented HERE, volume 15 HERE, volume 16 HERE, volume 17 HERE, and volume 18, well, here-by:

cover page

Some things did not change from last year at all. This means that there was again no paper dedicated to fieldwork conducted on Sai Island, while the medieval period was the object of just one paper, with a couple more indirect references.

This does not mean that the reports presented were uninteresting, even though one should stress that to the exception of the reproduction of the Kirwan Memorial Lecture all the rest of the 18 contributions are categorized by…

View original post 1,229 more words

Mithras… Now in 3D!

Trowels & Temples

An important aspect in 21st century archaeology is getting to grips with all the different forms of technology that can aid you with excavation, research and publicising your work.
Plans and photographs will always have their place in archaeological studies, but they are no longer the only medium by which we can record data; with a bunch of photos and the right software, we can now present people with a much more interactive experience in the form of 3D models.

screenshot_p3d Click the image to see in 3D

View original post 298 more words

A Magic Spell Book from Ancient Egypt

Friday, November 21, 2014


(Effy Alexakis/Macquarie University Ancient Cultures Research Centre)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—A mysterious ancient Egyptian parchment codex that has been in the collection of Macquarie University in Australia for more than three decades has finally been deciphered and found to contain a series of invocations and spells. The book, which likely dates to the seventh or eighth century A.D. and is written in the Egyptian language called Coptic contains a variety of spells—some love spells, some to exorcise evil spirits, and others to treat infections. As to who would have used these spells, lead researcher Malcolm Choat told Livescience, “It is my sense that there were ritual practitioners outside the ranks of the clergy and monks, but exactly who they were is shielded from us by the fact that people didn’t really want to belabeled as a “magician.”

To read about all kinds of ancient magic, see ARCHAEOLOGY’S “When Spells Worked Magic.”

Making Magic Dangerous

I very much agree. Magic should be very dangerous, and sometimes near-lethal or lethal to wield.

DIY RPG Productions

Making Magic Dangerous

Caster 2

I like it when magic is dangerous to cast…  That the players know that their character is messing with forces beyond their full comprehension, but the ability to wield that power is beyond the risk.  It’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Aside for those unfamiliar with the DCC rules: When a wizard casts a spell they must make a spell check (rolling a d20 + Intelligence modifier + level) to hit a target number.  For level one spells the base success rate is a DC of 12.  The higher the caster rolls, the more awesomesauce their spells is.  However should a caster roll a 2-11 the spell is lost for the day… Should the caster roll a 1, they suffer corruption, misfire, patron taint, and etc. 


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying also has possible terrible things happen should the caster fuck up…

View original post 644 more words

The Roman Baths of Bath, England



Essay Fourteen: The Ability Hoard


When it comes to my own characters (be they fictional or gaming) and even the players and characters I DM I think of Skills, Capabilities, Abilities, Attributes, (innate personal and individual features) and so forth as much more important character elements and possessions than magic items, spells, money, and other types of what is normally thought of as “standard treasures.”

To me the single greatest types of treasures a character (or a real person) can possess are what they can actually do for themselves (and for others) in the world, devoid of all outside help, material/materiel, and extraneous accoutrements. So I’m going to call this idea and post the Ability-Hoard, or the Treasure of Personal Capacity. I think that this is where the true emphasis of “characterization” should be evident, and most brightly shine.

Let me, at this point, briefly define the Ability Hoard.

The Ability Hoard is that accumulated set of skills, talents, abilities, capabilities, extraordinary qualities (be they physical, mental, psychological, or spiritual), educational and individual merits, virtues, and sensory capacities that a character or person possesses which allows them to resolve difficult problems or to gain some beneficial advantage over others or over a particular set of circumstances.

Now I realize that this may be an entirely personal opinion, or at least very probably a minority opinion, but to me the Ability Hoard (similar to the poetic term Word-Hoard in this respect), be that in a fictional world, a gaming environment, or in Real Life is by far the greatest wealth a person may possess, and as such accumulating and developing and increasing your own Ability Hoard is of paramount importance to both your success in this world (or in any fictional world) and to your favorable development as an individual.

(At least in the gaming world, it has been my observation, and far too often in the Real World, possessions, especially powerful and valuable possessions seem to consume much of the emphasis and interest in any setting. However the Ability Hoard is not only a treasure and a possession in its own right, it is the one possession you own which actually allows you to grow and multiply all of your other possessions – be they physical, financial, material, mental, psychological, or otherwise.)

Thus in my opinion, whether you are speaking of gaming or Real Life a person’s Ability Hoard is their Chief and True Treasure, and the one source of wealth that is never subject to theft or plunder by another. (Unless, of course, you intentionally allow some particular element of your Ability Hoard to be stolen by another.)

I will return to the idea of the Ability Hoard in later posts, because for one thing, it constitutes a vital and fundamental part of my Games of Personal Advancement and Development series. For now, however, I just wish to introduce the concept.

In closing, what is your opinion – is a character’s or an individual’s Ability Hoard their single greatest source of treasure, or do you consider some other form of treasure a more valuable possession?


Incredible work in any age or epoch …

The Popes and the Byzantines

You know I had to reblog…

History 100: Western Civilization to 1648

The Popes and the Byzantines by Eric Malmquist (introduced in “The Pope’s Army”)

The troubled Imperial-Papal relationship began when the Roman Emperor (and professional meglomaniac) Constantine moved the imperial capital away from Rome to the new city of Constantinople in 324.  At this time he also made Christianity his personal creed and a favored religion of the Roman Empire.

Suddenly, Christian bishops went from being potential martyrs to enormously influential people, and the Bishops of Rome (a.k.a. the Popes, moving forward) began to see themselves as the leader of the Church.  The Christian Roman Emperors, naturally, thought that they themselves were the leaders of the Church, and the two were set for more than a millennium of conflict.

Nope. Stop. Call off the lions.

Over the following centuries, the Popes gained more and more influence and followers in Western Europe, while the Roman Empire steadily lost territory to invaders, including…

View original post 212 more words

Who Was the First White Knight?


By Dr. Anne Mathers-Lawrence

In this season of remembrance for those who fought and died in wars and battles, it is worth commemorating Whiteknights’ very own White Knight – the first on record. He was John of Earley, who served in the army of Edward I in the 1290s, and was supposedly given the name both for his appearance and his chivalrous behaviour. His manor at Earley (now the site of the University of Reading’s main campus) came to be known as Earley Whiteknights after him.

This John of Earley inherited his land while he was still a child, and both he and his manor were placed by King Edward I under the guardianship of St Thomas Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford, who needed a base near Windsor and London. Thomas himself had had an adventurous career, having been a supporter of the rebel and reformer, Simon de Montfort, who appointed…

View original post 377 more words

Feudalsim, prt. I – The tyranny of a construct

Quit the Grind: Other Ways to “Level”

I’m all for both different methods of character advancement and different types of “leveling.”

Game Make World

In many RPGs you reach a point when battles are neither novel nor challenging, when you’re just going through the motions for gold or experienceーalso known as grinding. It can kill any momentum the game had going, and it turns play into work.

The problem is that grinding is hard to avoid in the standard RPG formula where each battle pushes you closer to the big “level up.” You’re inherently rewarded for grinding, and sometimes forced to by sudden jumps in difficulty.

Many classic RPGs have explored alternatives here, tooーlet’s see how they handled “leveling up.”

This is the most simple solution- you can’t grind if there aren’t any more enemies!

This is used by many Strategy RPGs (Fire Emblem, Front Mission, etc.) that they are divided into stages with a set numbers of enemies. This of course requires careful planning by developers to make sure…

View original post 1,180 more words

Game Design: Introducing your characters (what rapport do you speak of?)

Well considered points


A foggy night with a pale moonlight shimmers among still water. Murmuring in the distance interrupts the tranquil silence. A ripple in the water catches your eye and you trace it back to where you think it came. The camera closes in on your face as you try to make out what could be ruining the tranquility of the scene.

Introducing your character into a story is important to give a grounding for who the player will control and their significance to the story. Will I be analyzing my character or the story around them? Will I be able to impose any free will through them? Are they reliable, are their perceptions to be trusted?

You not only establish a rapport with the character but you establish the ground rules for interaction with them.

View original post 758 more words

The Grand Tour

dr dud's dicta

NO, NOT an England rugby tour.  The Grand Tour was a tour of parts of Europe in antiquity. It began around the 16th century, with Fynes Moryson being one of the first Grand Tourists in 1591. However, it was not until the 18th century that it became fashionable. By this latter date such travel had become part of the elite youth’s education and social image. It was a fusion of tourism and social status. The popular countries to visit were France and Italy, travelling via Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Paris was fashionable, but Rome was warm and cultural. Italy was in the Mediterranean, which was central to the four great empires, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman, which made Italy a more popular venue for the Oxbridge and classically educated aristocrats. Makes sense.


Fynes Moryson (1566-1630)

The tutors that accompanied these young gentlemen had little control over them and, although the initial…

View original post 1,007 more words

%d bloggers like this: