Recently, I discovered the Royal Game of UR. It is an ancient game that gives us a look into the common lives of past civilizations. It would be a good lead in for students studying Ancient History and researching how we have discovered information about past lives. It is generally good for students that are middle school age and above. They will likely be intrigued by it’s history and the game looks age appropriate.
The game has a bonus of originating in the Middle East. We have many students who have Middle Eastern ancestry. We often lack materials representing this ethnic group so it is nice to include things when we can. We can validate this culture and show the positive contributions rather than the negative that seems to be in our mainstream.
Just to give you a little background, the first recognizable game boards were excavated at the Royal Cemetery of UR between 1922 and 1934 in an archaeologist dig by an English archeologist, Sir Charles Leonard Woolley. Most people base their replications on one found at this excavation and housed in the British Museum. They are dated to the First Dynasty of UR around 2600 BC. Other versions have been found throughout the Middle East but were generally not in very good condition.
I know some of you are wondering how this ended up on a speech blog so here is my reasoning. I like to discover new games and discover how they can be used to teach social communication and general language skills. This one could be used for encouraging participating in an activity with a partner for a length of time, focusing on a topic, handling disappointment, (there are frequent set backs), anticipating consequences for actions, following directions and developing strategy. The rules are fairly simple so students can grasp them in 5 to 10 minutes.
It is generally a race game with conflict. It is a two player game in which each player is required to get 7 tokens across the board before the other player. Set backs occur when a player lands on the opponents token sending it off the board to start over. Luck and strategy both play a part in success so one student may not necessarily over power another student because of cognitive ability. The games last an average of 20 to 30 minutes depending on how much you think it through.
It is not entirely clear what the original game rules were and several sets of rules have been published. A tablet was discovered in Iraq in 1880 outlining rules for a game using pawns, dice, and throws prior to Wooley’s excavation of his game. This tablet was later linked to being the possible rules for the UR game board. The original game used triangular rocks with painted tips for dice and variations on safe places and getting another turn in specific places.
You can see how it is played by watching this youtube video. Irving Finkel is a curator at the British Museum and has produced a number of youtube videos on artifacts that are housed there. He is a unique individual who really plays the part. His videos are entertaining as well as informative.
If you are interested in locating the game that is pictured on my heading, they are being sold on Etsy by True Laser Cutting. I like this particular version because it comes in a wooden box with room to store all the pieces. I can carry it to various schools and not lose any. There is also a 10% off coupon for teachers at checkout so don’t forget to use that. Type in 10FORTEACHERS near the final checkout button.