Traditional Board Games


A mehen board at the Oriental Institute Museum, Chicago
A mehen board at the Oriental Institute Museum, Chicago

Mehen is a mysterious early game of the ancient Egyptians. It first appeared in about 3000 BC and continued until 2300 BC. While the extant boards could be taken for something other than board games, a number of wall paintings show the board in its proper context and make its purpose beyond doubt.

No set of rules has survived for mehen. It appears to be a race to (or from) the centre of the board, which is in the form of a coiled snake. The pieces sometimes found with the board do not usually fit neatly in the spaces. In this it resembles some nineteenth century horse racing board games, where the front of a piece marks its true position.

Some of the sets found have multiple pieces of each colour, suggesting that, like other Egyptian race games, the player was given some choice in moving the pieces, and that there may have therefore been a tactical or strategic element to the game.


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