Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cubical Dice Through the Ages

Small joke here: not a true "Through the Ages" post looking at various editions of D&D, but rather an actual academic study by professor Jelmer Eerkens on the changing shape, size, and design of cubical dice from antiquity to the modern day. Fascinating stuff. From the abstract:
Cubic dice were brought by the Romans to the Low Countries, and are found in small numbers at many archaeological sites dating to the last 2000 years. We report on a systematic analysis of 110 well-dated dice from the Netherlands, showing that shape, pip configuration, and pip style changed significantly for bone and antler dice from the Roman to the recent historical period. Dice predating 650 CE are highly variable in all attributes, those dating between 1100 and 1450 are highly standardized, and those post-dating 1450 CE are standardized for some attributes, such as symmetry and configuration, but variable for others, such as material type. There is also a major shift from “sevens” to “primes” and back to “sevens” pip configuration across these temporal windows, and pip style was simplified over time from a dot-ring-ring pattern to simple dots.
(Hat tip: Jon Miller.)