It is the purpose of this article to gather from a variety of places and publications the examples (known to me) of a particular form of game-board which was in use, at widely different periods, over a very large area of the ancient East, and to point out one historical fact which seems to have a clear connexion with it.
The game in question is that which has been called, for want of any other name, the Game of Fifty-eight Holes. In all cases but one the only requisites of the game which have survived are the boards upon which it was played, and these show in general a striking resemblance, not only in the arrangement of the holes, but in the shape of the whole object, which is roughly rectangular, but has one of the short sides straight while all of the other sides are curved, the long ones concave, the remaining short one convex. Despite individual variations this general form is common to all but a very few of the examples; it has been aptly compared with an axe-blade. As to the holes, there is always a line of these following the edges of the board and two straight lines down the middle. Occasionally the middle displays some pictorial device, a palm-tree, or a pair of eyes, so contrived that it marks out the end (?), or winning-point, of the game; but this feature is rare. The holes are arranged in groups so that, in all but one particular area, four ordinary holes occur between special holes which are always distinguished either by a mark, an inlay, or the end of certain lines connecting them with other holes of the same kind. In the middle of the curved short side is always a central hole of the special kind, generally marked in the same way as the others, but occasionally made larger, or even signalized by a sign of its own. In the particular area referred to, which is on the middle lines towards the straight end of the board, there is always a pair of groups of three special holes with only one ordinary hole dividing them.
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