I said in yesterday’s blog that the East Asian board game of Go was the oldest known board game. It is mentioned in the earliest Chinese writing which dates back 3,000 years.
We have an historical bias toward history that is recorded. That bias apparently infuses me too, though I made an offer to my editor at Random House to write a book on pre-written history. She wasn’t interested.
In celebrating the antiquity of Go, I was ignoring my own private knowledge.
My daughter is an archaeologist. Nearly a decade ago she went on an harrowing trip to East Timor to do her research. The most interesting part of her report to me was that she and her group were served a roast pig. The pig was sliced into small cubes about 1.5 inches square with a machete. One of the pieces she got had some teeth in it.
The part of my daughter’s report that relates to this blog is that she sat on a large boulder on the West side of the island and found two rows of small pits or depressions in the rock. Two rows of 14 pits. That is the African game of Kalah or Mancala.
Which suggests that the earliest migrants may have brought the game with them.
The ‘out of Africa’ model places the Indian Ocean migration to 50,000 years ago with final settlement of the native peoples in Australia.
The current archaeology of the Pacific Islands places the migration at 3-5,000 years ago from Taiwan, based on language, genetics and pottery.
Whatever island settlement model one uses, it certainly looks like the game of Kalah is very old and possibly older than Go.