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Petteia, kubeia and grammata: Thoth’s connection with senet and knucklebones in Ancient Egypt

Nifosi, Ada (2023) Petteia, kubeia and grammata: Thoth’s connection with senet and knucklebones in Ancient Egypt. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 82 (2). pp. 303-325. ISSN 0022-2968. E-ISSN 1545-6978. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:100017)

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In Plato’s Phaedrus (274d), Socrates argued that the Egyptian god Thoth invented writing, numeracy, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. However, alongside these inventions, the god was also said to have introduced boardgames (petteia) and dice games (kubeia). Why did Plato mention these specific inventions together and, more importantly, why did he attribute them to Thoth? This article will look at Plato’s passage from an Egyptian point of view, investigating the role of the Egyptian god Thoth in the context of boardgames and dice gaming in Ancient Egypt. In particular, I will focus on the potential connections between Thoth and the senet, one of the most popular boardgames in Dynastic Egypt. The role played by Thoth in the senet game, may explain why this game and its randomising devices seem to have been related at multiple levels to scribal training, knowledge and self-representation, as suggested by tomb paintings, texts and gaming boards between the New Kingdom and the Greco-Roman Period.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D51 Ancient History
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Department of Classical and Archaeological Studies
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Ada Nifosi
Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2023 09:07 UTC
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2023 09:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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