Gaming board, chalk gaming board. Zoomorphic design in centre probably representing a horse.
Nine Men’s Morris is a very ancient game. The oldest known board is carved into the roof slabs of the temple at Kurna, Eygypt, which dates from around 1400 BCE. There are many boards surviving from the Roman Empire and the medieval period, and the game is still played today.
Also known as merels or mill, the game has many names but ‘Nine Men’s Morris’ seems to have been invented by Shakespeare in his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, written in about 1595.
The aim of this two-player game is to form a ‘mill’ with three of nine pieces in one row connected by a line. The player who forms a mill gets to remove one of their opponent’s pieces. The game is over when one player is left with only two pieces and can no longer form a mill. It is a game of pure strategy as no dice are involved.
This medieval Nine Men’s Morris board is incised on a block of chalk. The decorative design in the centre probably represents a horse but is not a component of the game. The board was probably made in England during the ? century and was excavated at Castle Acre in Norfolk. Counters would have been flat disks that could be stacked easily, such as this example made of ox bone (search for NWHCM : L1984.11.193), which is marked with a distinctive pattern of rings and dots.