Overview of the History of Backgammon

Content Team 1 year ago
Overview of the History of Backgammon

Without a doubt, Backgammon is a popular board game worldwide. But did you know it’s also one of the oldest games in history? Unlike traditional games such as chess and go, Backgammon has been around since 3,000 BC.

In this article, I’ll talk more about the history of Backgammon, so read on if you’re interested to learn the origins of this game.

The History of Backgammon

Evidence suggests that Backgammon has been played by the rulers of ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome, Persia, and the Far East for thousands of years.


The oldest known backgammon board, which dates back 5,000 years, was found in 2004 in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan. Pieces were made of turquoise and agate, and the board was made of pure ivory. During those days, these materials were commonly used to construct backgammon boards and other board games.

Around the same time, ancient dice made of human bone were also discovered.

Ancient Mesopotamia

In the 1920s, archaeological discoveries were made in ancient Mesopotamia and present-day Iraq, dating back 5,000 years and revealing six artifacts similar to what we see today in backgammon boards, dice, and different colored pieces. These discoveries provided a fascinating glimpse into the game’s potential origins in ancient Mesopotamia. Even though there’s a debate over the exact origin of Backgammon, it’s known that Egyptians, Sumerians, and Persians all played games similar to our modern backgammon games.

A 5,000-year-old backgammon board was found in the Royal Tombs of Ur in Mesopotamia in 1962. Although, as previously mentioned, this was the area where The Royal Game of Ur was played, the wheel, the first written language, and the first known math system were all invented.

Roman Empire

There were times when the Romans were so enthralled with the game that they proclaimed it to be the sport of emperors; they played it on surfaces such as wood, with stones as markers and dice made from bones, wood, or pottery as dice. It’s believed that during the long journeys of Emperor Claudius, he incorporated a special board into his chariot to be able to play the game during those long journeys.

Backgammon was believed to have been taught in the Holy Land and brought back to Europe by the Crusaders. In the Middle Ages, Backgammon was an advantage of knighthood in England; it was the privilege of the aristocracy and noblemen.

References of Backgammon

  • English literature and art used to refer to Backgammon as ‘tables’ until 1645 when the word ‘backgammon’ first appeared in print.
  • There are several references to the game in works by Chaucer and Shakespeare, as well as Dr. Jan Steen’s masterpiece of the 17th century, ‘Argument over a Card Game,’ which deals with the game’s history.
  • A reference in the book written by writer Edmond Hoyle in 1745 describes the rules of Backgammon and discusses some strategies still used today in the game. The invention of the double cube took place in the 1920s.

The Doubling Cube

Among the most significant developments in the history of Backgammon, the invention of the doubling cube is most notable.

The doubling cube is shaped like any six-sided dice, except its numbers are different — six numbers are displayed on the doubling cube, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64. The cube sits between each player. So, using the cube, one player can double their stakes if they feel they have the advantage.

In the 20s, the doubling cube became popular in New York City, but it’s unclear who introduced it to the public. Today, the doubling cube is used by western players in modern backgammon games. And, for example, in Armenia and Greece, the doubling cube isn’t commonly used.

Backgammon Today

During the 60s, there was a surge in the popularity of Backgammon, partly because of the influence of the Russian Prince Alexis Obolensky. It was believed that he was the father of modern Backgammon for a time. He was a co-founder of the International Backgammon Association and wrote the first set of rules for the game. He also hosted a series of tournaments in Manhattan in the 1960s, drawing many celebrities and royalty.

Backgammon was once one of the most popular games in the Western world. Over the years, it has always been one of the most popular board games throughout the Middle East, and its popularity has never diminished over the years.

In the late 60s, Hugh Hefner’s backgammon parties were held at the Playboy Mansion. And during the last days of Hefner’s life, he played the game with his family and close friends.

In 1967, there was even a World Championship held in Las Vegas.

As a result of the establishment of the United States Backgammon Federation in 2009, Backgammon has become more and more popular worldwide. This federation is composed of all-time top players and tournament directors worldwide. For this reason, backgammon tournaments have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Backgammon has become a popular game in most land-based and online casinos. However, in casinos, it may have slightly different rules, but its popularity shows just how common it is. And lastly, home versions of this game are available at the major board game manufacturers.

Digital Backgammon

It’s now possible to play Backgammon anywhere at any time.

There are hundreds of backgammon versions available on flash game websites. Moreover, versions are available through Apple and Android’s app stores. Alternatively, you can play a version of this game through iMessage with other iPhone users.


I provided a brief overview of what I’ve mentioned in this article about the history of Backgammon:

    • In 2004, the ancient backgammon board was discovered in an Iranian province, dating back 5,200 years.
    • In the 20s, six artifacts were in Iraq that originated approximately 3000 BC.
    • A 5,000-year-old board was discovered in Iraq in the 60s.
    • In England, in 1645, the word ‘backgammon’ first appeared in print.
    • The father of modern Backgammon is Alexis Obolensky.
    • First World Championship took place in Las Vegas in 1967.
    • In 2009, the United States Backgammon Federation was established.

It’s one of the oldest dice games, but people still love playing Backgammon at home, at parties, land-based and online casinos. In case you don’t know anything, you can learn the rules and gameplay of Backgammon.

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