Board games have been a part of human culture for at least the past 6000 years—perhaps even longer. Unfortunately, many of the rules of ancient games have been lost because they were rarely written down. Nevertheless, surviving game boards, artistic depictions of people playing games, and literary allusions to gameplay provide us with pieces of information about these rules. Archaeologist Walter Crist presents the earliest evidence that has been found for board games, and discusses how Artificial Intelligence is being used to reconstruct the games of antiquity, making them playable thousands of years after they were abandoned.
Walter Crist is an archaeologist working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering at Maastricht University. He earned a PhD in Anthropology, concentrating in Archaeology, from Arizona State University. He is one of the authors of the book Ancient Egyptians at Play: Board Games across Borders. Crist has conducted research in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. His main research focus is how social processes—such as trade, social complexity, and collapse—affect the ways people play games.