Losing a piece to win a game: Gaming pieces in Portugal

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Gaming pieces are a frequent find in Portugal's archaeological record since the Middle Ages. From the 12th century onwards, large quantities of these objects start to be found and their use continues without interruption until, at least, the late 18th century. Ceramic objects are the most frequent, reusing broken pots, the sherds of which were shaped into these discoid artefacts. This reuse makes them interesting chronological elements reflecting what type of pots were being used at the time in a specific place. Less frequent objects were made of bone, stone, and wood. The pieces were used to play board games, though the survival of these boards is scarce. Some of them were drawn in stone, in church yards for example, although a large share must have been made of wood and played anywhere from taverns to domestic environments. The distribution of gaming pieces in every type of archaeological context suggests this diffusion. This paper aims to discuss the evolution of these gaming pieces and how board games were an important aspect of the daily life of the Portuguese population based on the archaeological evidence found at several sites across the city of Lisbon.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropa Postmediaevalis 2020
Subtitle of host publicationPost-Medieval Pottery in the Spare Time
EditorsGabriela Blažková, Kristýna Matějková
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781789699180
ISBN (Print)9781789699173
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021


  • Board games
  • Gaming pieces
  • Pottery sherds


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