Mancala: A Count and Capture Game from Lebanon

Map of Labanon

This board was owned by a Lebanese family for many years, and was donated to the Museum in 1975 when a member of the family became part of the staff of the United Nations Organization Headquarters in New York City. The donor refered to the game as a Mancala board using the traditional Arabic name for the game.

Mancala Board

This solid hardwood hand carved wooden game board is 17.7cm wide x 63.4cm x 4.6cm long. The 5 1/2cm handle features a metal ring which is used to hang the board on a peg when it is not in use.

Fourteen depressions, each with a diameter of 7cm x 3cm deep are carved into the board. Traditional decorations are carved along the top and sides of the board, and Arabic writing has been incised on one long edge between the decorations.

Although no counters were donated with the game, the donor indicated that many items could be used to play the game, such as small stones, beans, coins, etc. The donor also indicated that the family played the game in a traditional Middle Eastern manner, and visitors from neighboring countries who came to the house, were quite familiar with these traditional methods of play.

Details for traditional Middle Eastern methods of play can be found in H.J.R. Murray, A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess, Oxford University Press, 1952, Chapter 7: Mancala - Part 1.

Last update February 5, 2010