On the game board in wood decorated with symbols of ancient Mesopotamia, Hochmand Mouafaq advance his pawn as many spaces as indicated by the dice pyramid: this craftsman kurdish is one of the first to perform these gestures for thousands of years in Iraq.
In reviving the royal game of Ur, Hochmand Mouafaq seeks to “show people what we had before”. “Before” is when Iraq did not yet exist and that civilizations sumerian, akkadian, assyrian or babylonian were occurring in the fertile Crescent between the Tigris and the Euphrates.
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Resistant to time and distance, the royal game of Ur was held in suspense for hours at a time these peoples of Mesopotamia, in what is now modern Iraq, torn apart by the conflict. It was at the time also popular as is the backgammon today in this region. Before falling mysteriously into oblivion. It was not until 1922 that a plateau of this game, a kind of checkerboard in the shape of “H” lying, has been discovered during excavations in the royal cemetery of Ur, one of the oldest cities in the world, in the south of Iraq, which would be from Abraham. However it took more than 50 years of track game the archaeological specialists of the British Museum order to be able to translate the rules, discoveries in cuneiform on tablets of clay dating back to over 2000 years.
“Some players would bet the shot of alcohol, or even women”
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In a video released by the British Museum, one of the curators at the museum, Irving Finkel, visibly fond of strategy and connoisseur of the tips for winning, describes a game that went far beyond mere entertainment. “Some players would bet the shot of alcohol, or even women,” he says. Sometimes, it is the dimension of esoteric prevailed. “For those who believed in astrology, the game was directed by deities and could have an impact on their future,” continues the researcher.
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After you have unlocked the secrets and discovered the intricacies of the royal game of Ur, the british archaeologist Ashley Barlow, who teaches at the University of Raparin to Raniye in iraqi Kurdistan, is now trying to make it live again on his land original. Teacher, and decided to convince people that the players need only luck and simple strategy, he presented his board game in the parks of Raniye, 300 km north of Baghdad. To the Iraqi people he encounters, he explains that “it is mostly a race to bring its seven tokens at the end of the plateau before the opponent”.
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The tray in his hand – an order placed to Hochmand Mouafaq – is a free interpretation of the original, carefully preserved in the British Museum. “It is the first made in Iraq for millennia,” says Ashley Barlow, putting challenge anyone to present to him a royal game of Ur is drawn or played prior to the “hers”.
A group of curious seems to be captivated by the four wooden dice in the and the 14 pawns of red and white as the two players – Mouafaq and Barlow – are moving forward. Well before them, the royal game of Ur had conquered the spirits beyond Mesopotamia, if you believe the precious stones that adorned the plateau found in the royal cemetery. “Of lapis-lazuli from Afghanistan and carnelian from Pakistan”, according to Ashley Barlow.
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“We like to think that globalization is a recent phenomenon, but the game board itself is proof of a world that is already globalized and connected by the traders and craftsmen” of the time, provides the archaeologist. Besides, he adds, a derived form of the game still existed until recently among the jewish community in Kochi, India.
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Raniye, Mam Rasul, a retired denizen of the parties without the end of the backgammon and checkers, just waiting for a partner to reconnect with the ancestral tradition of the royal game of Ur. “I don’t have much else to do so I can play anytime!”, he vanishes behind his impressive black moustache. “This game is 5000 years old, but for us, it is a discovery recently.”