Gambling in Ancient Egypt

Gambling represents a kind of hope on tick. All of us are controlled by some forces that use credit cards at their discretion. To appreciate how great this dependence is, remember that each of us exists due to the accidental interaction of two microscopic living cells.

The combination of chromosomes, genes, and hormones determines our sex, skin color, and character. This great force also decides when we go west. Our whole life journey from diapers to the grave is nothing but an endless series of gambling. We are unable to guess the single consequences of the many decisions we make every day and every hour. The only thing we have left is to “hope for the best”. Yet, Lady Fortune is not thinking of rewarding people for their discretion and prudence!

It would undoubtedly be nice to name the year when gambling appeared. Unfortunately, it is impossible. Gambling is a phenomenon of psychological order, just like fire – physical. There is no way we can determine when our ancestors discovered the existence of both.

The first man entered the historical scene approximately in the late Pleistocene era (about five hundred thousand years ago). A representative of the early Stone Age engaged mainly in food production could come across the concept of “chance” in the hunting process. Indeed, having set a trap in the evening, he could not predict with certainty that in the morning he would be waiting for the captured prey. One day, our adventurous ancestor must have guessed that the less he relied on pure chance, the more nutritious his morning meal would be. That is how the word «chance» was formed, as applied to the realities of life. It is one step away from such a notion as «bet».

Now we have some material evidence of gambling in Ancient Egypt. The Cheops pyramid, built in the area of Giza, near Cairo, contained a clay tablet telling a mythological story about the origin of the modern calendar through gambling.

This is how it happened. Nut, goddess of the sky, secretly engaged to her brother Geb. When Ra, the creator god, found out about their marriage, he went mad and ordered to separate the audacious spouses. But this was not enough for him, so Ra cursed Nut saying

“you will not have babies on any of the three-hundred sixty days of the year. May your womb be as empty as the sands of the Hum Desert”.

But the good god of the night, Thoth, took pity on the beautiful goddess and came up with something to do. He offered Moon to play dice. The stake in each of the games was one seventy-seventh of the moonlight. With the assistance of Nut, Thoth defeated his opponent and gave Nut his winning – five new calendar days. Since Ra’s curse did not apply to these five days, Nut immediately took advantage of favorable circumstances by giving birth to four children in five days. Among them were Isis, Osiris, Horus, and Nephthys.

This story proves that gambling appeared long before the construction of the Cheops pyramid (3000 BC). This is also evidenced by the following facts:

  • dice, carved by an unknown master from an elephant tusk and dated 1573 BC (now kept in the British Museum);
  • fresco with the image of two Egyptians playing “athep” (standing back-to-back and guessing the numbers shown on their fingers);
  • copper bowls for playing “hab-em-haw” where you need to throw discs into the bowl in a certain sequence.

In various collections of Egyptian antiques, one can see papyruses with the texts of laws on punishment for avid players: they were sent to quarries for «community service». Such a severe penalty clearly shows how deep the gambling virus penetrated the body of the most ancient civilization.


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