Science News picks up a really old game with a shaped stone from the desert of Jordan that might well have been the oldest chess piece ever discovered:
This roughly 1,300-year-old rectangular piece of rock with two hornlike projections on top resembles several rooks, also known as castles, that have been found at other Islamic sites in the region. But those other rooks date to a century or more later, John Oleson, an archaeologist at the University of Victoria in Canada, said. He presented his analysis of the carved rock on November 21 at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
Simpler board games than chess go back roughly 4,000 years in Eurasia (SN: 11/16/18). Surviving written accounts indicate that chess originated in India at least 1,400 years ago, Oleson said. Merchants and diplomats probably carried the game westward. The suspected chess piece, excavated at Humayma, located on what was once a major trade route, dates to between 680 and 749, when an Islamic family owned and ran the site.
“Chess became very popular in the early Islamic world,” Oleson said. It also brought together people with diverse backgrounds. Islamic texts from that time portray chess matches between Muslims and Christians and between rich and poor players.