An Ivory Chess Disc and Two Chess Figures 7

It must have been intriguing for Sahni to discover what seemed like chess pieces of ivory and stone, in at least one case within the chati. Game pieces and dice have been discovered in different contexts at Harappa. Vats later wrote more generally about game finds at the site:

"Objects used for games are not many. Those that may be said to be unmistakable are balls and marbles in stone, shell, faience and pottery; dice of the same materials except shell; and some gamesmen of tetrahedral1 or chessman shape,2 the latter hardly distinguishable from baetyls. It is also possible that certain small tapering cylinders, usually made of hornblende, but sometimes steatite and occasionally of lapis lazuli, which are grooved near the head3 (P. CXXXIX, 36-39), and similar cylinders with plano-convex bead-like tops threaded and cemented on to them, may also have been gamesmen rather than pendents. Now-a-days, in the Panjab, many of the most popular games are played with objects of wood which is of course a perishable material. Such are gulli-danda, dand-palam, gaindi, and turning tops (Iatu), on the other hand, samundar-tapu or kidi-kada and barah-gati, which are equally popular, are often played with potsherds or pebbles. But even the latter would hardly leave any recognizable traces."

- Madho Sarup Vats, Excavations at Harappa, 1940, p. 454-55.

"These gaming pieces are found scattered throughout the site. It is most likely that the “ivory” pieces were made of marine shell or limestone as ivory found in the excavations is usually very fragile and not well preserved."

- Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, 2021.

1. Tetrahedral forms at Harappa are found in clay, faience and stone.
2. Chessman-shaped forms are found in stone, faience, shell and terracotta.
3. For similar cylinders from Mohenjo-daro, cf. [Marshall] M. I. C., pp. 526-27.

ASI Description: 

A. 248 . . . chess die (length 1 3/4") of ivory [entered in 243 description, no 248 in Jan 1921 list].

A. 279 Terracotta figure (height 7/8") of chess game.

A. 280 Stone piece (height 3/4") of chess game.

[Appendix D] 2815 An ivory chess die (A 248), two chess figures (A 279-80), etc.

[Original caption] An ivory chess disc and two chess figures.

ASI Number: 
Silver Plate: 
(Item) Serial Number: 
A 248
A 279
A 280
Find spot: 
17 x 7
23 x 1
Depth (ft.): 
Depth (in.):