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Two hand-painted Mamluk playing cards and two Venetian playing cards.

Before They Were Divination Tools, Tarot Cards Were Playing Cards

In the English-speaking world, the word ‘tarot’ is most commonly associated with the occult and divination. It is one of the oldest forms of fortune telling, although its origins are somewhat obscure...
An antique Ouija board

Be Careful What You Wish For: Ouija Boards Unraveled

Ouija boards—also called spirit boards or talking boards—have been part of various cultures long before the introduction of the "game" in the 19 th century. "Ouija", in fact, is the name of the game...
Jain version Game of Snakes & Ladders called jnana bazi or Gyan bazi, India, 19th century, Gouache on cloth.

The Origin of Snakes and Ladders: A Moral Guide of Vice and Virtue

The game of Snakes and Ladders is today considered a classic, and is loved by children from all over the world. Whilst the game itself is known my most people, its origin is less well-known. As a...
A Greek amphora showing athletes, 4th century BC. ©Trustees of the British Museum.

Mythbusting Ancient Rome: Did Christians Ban The Ancient Olympics?

Every two years, when the Winter or Summer Olympics comes around, we hear about how the games staged at Olympia in Greece since 776 BC came to a sudden end in the late fourth century AD. The finger...
George Catlin, Tchung-kee, a Mandan Game Played with a Ring and Pole", 1832-3.

Ancient North Americans Played High-stakes Games

University of California, Santa Barbara From games of chance to tests of physical skill, ancient North America Indians took their sport and recreation seriously, research shows. “Games are ubiquitous...
Fun for Everyone: The Evolving History of Board Games

Fun for Everyone: The Evolving History of Board Games

The delightful hobby of playing games isn't a modern invention. While people in ancient times didn't have Pokemon Go to entertain themselves, they still spent hours of fun games both inside and...
A tomb of athletes at Taranto. Inset: The skeleton of the ancient athlete found at Taranto

2,500-Year-Old Skeleton is Oldest Known Remains of a Panathenaic Athlete

In ancient Greece, successful athletes were rich and celebrated like they are today. Evidence for this comes in the form of the oldest known skeleton of a young athlete, buried with rich honors at...
Tracing the Origins of the Infamous Ouija Board

Tracing the Origins of the Infamous Ouija Board

The Ouija board (known also as a Spirit board or Talking board) is a type of board commonly believed to enable its users to communicate with the spirit world. A Ouija board usually has the letters of...
Pankratiasts fighting.

Pankration: A Deadly Martial Art Form from Ancient Greece

Pankration was one of the most popular combat sports in ancient Greece. It combined two other popular sports of antiquity, wrestling and boxing, but kicking was allowed as well. The name Pankration...
Dramatic painting portraying gladiators in the arena. Jean-Léon Gérôme's 1872.

The Real Lives of the Gladiators of Rome – The Unfathomable Sport of Life and Death

Roman gladiators are some of the most iconic characters in history and have defined how we think of entertainment in ancient Rome. Their portrayal in films and stories has turned them into archetypal...
Colosseum

Ancient Roman Tunnel from Gladiator Training School to Colosseum set to be Revived

Authorities hope to preserve some ancient Roman history with the restoration of a tunnel that runs from a gladiator training school to the Colosseum, where brutal gladiatorial bouts took place. Parts...