Piece of a 600-year-old game discovered on land near Houghton Regis

It dates back between 600 and 700 years
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Archaeologists have found a medieval gaming piece while excavating land near Houghton Regis.

Developer Taylor Wimpey is set to build homes in the hamlet of Bidwell and had Cotswold Archeology’s experts look at the medieval land. The Milton Keynes field team uncovered a medieval timber-framed building and ditches, where they found a large ‘tableman’ (gaming piece).

The piece is almost 6cm in diameter and is made from the thick jawbone of a cow. The face is decorated with circles and a ring-and-dot design, around the edge, which Cotswold Archeology say is ‘attractive although not unusual’. Similar artefacts have been recovered in other areas, including Winchester, where the piece dated back to between the 11th and 13th centuries.

The piece found by the team from Cotswold ArchaeologyThe piece found by the team from Cotswold Archaeology
The piece found by the team from Cotswold Archaeology

A spokesperson for Cotswold Archeology said: ”This artefact would be exciting to find in any context, but uncovering it so close to a house of the same date really evokes images of the tableman being used by the building's inhabitants, some 600 or 700 years ago.”

They added: “When you can piece together the potential story of an object so clearly, it's pretty satisfying and gives a true feeling of connection to the people of the past."

Tablemen were used in board games where two players rolled dice and moved their pieces across a board – like backgammon. This piece may have been used across several table games, like ‘tabula’. This game was likely to have been derived from duodecim scripta from the Roman period and continued to be played into medieval times.