Minoan Board Game

Who invented this game?

How old is this game?

Where in the world is this game played?

In the past, the answers to these and similar questions were often provided by anthropologists - specialists who study the ways ancient and modern people live and organize civilization.

Modern anthropology is divided into four major areas: physical anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, and sociocultural anthropology. Physical anthropology maps human biological evolution and physiological adaptations. Archaeology examines the physical remains past human activities have left. Linguistics studies the development and use of language. Sociocultural anthropology investigates customs and products of civilization. Ethnography is the primary method used by sociocultural anthropologist to examine cultural organization and adaptations.

Ethnographers view games and game playing as an aspect of "material" culture. By observing games and participating in game playing, ethnographers attempt to identify the context in which a game is played in a given culture, the geographic distribution and origins of a specific game, and the relationship of that game to other aspects of culture.

Scholars have been studying and writing about games for hundreds of years. Some writings about games are titled a "history of", a "geography of", and even a "philosophy of". Since the late 19th century and during the 20th century, a number of ethnographers (or those who might be classified as such) have published many books and papers about specific games. However, as one reads these publications, one should be aware of  the conflicting number of  theories of game origins and game diffusion.

Detailed discussion and illustration of the "theories of game origins" and "theories of game diffusion" can be viewed by clicking on the left menu items above. The text (and at time graphics as well) from published pagers about games, written by scholars in the past are made available by clicking on the "Papers About Games" item in the left menu above.

Last update December 21, 2009