The History of the Dice

A considerable part of the history of gambling, which in itself goes back for centuries, is centred around one single small little item. The core of the multi-billion industry from way back until today, the dice. The dice dates back as far as Sophocles already reporting on it from before his time. Over centuries it became the icon for handing the power of your life over to Lady Luck. The little cube is making decisions for the indecisive, divining the future, casting your lot.

In the lifetime of Sophocles, he already reported on this little invention to which so much power is allocated. A design by Greek legend, Palamedes. A development that occurred during the attack on Troy. This version of the history of the dice is however under siege by another version stated by Herodotus claiming that it was indeed an invention of the Lydians during the kingship of King Atys. Regardless of both claims, archaeologists have found numerous findings that the dice indeed dates back way before then. Indeed a little bit of history which has prevailed for centuries and remains valid today.

Modern Dice

The precursors of the dice are seen to be magical devices applied by primitive people to cast the lot to divine their future. These were most likely bits of knuckle bone or even ankle bones of sheep, buffalo or any other animal carcass. Over time markings were made on these to give additional meaning to the four sides. Later on, in history, these devices were made of ivory, gold, porcelain or alabaster. Some of these dices which closely resemble the modern-day dice were found in excavations in China dating back as far as 600 BCE, as well as in Egyptian tombs from as far back as 2000 BCE. In India written records were found in Sanskrit, dating back to over 2000 years ago, referring to the dice.

During the 16th-century dice games gained the interest of the mathematicians of the time. Galileo and Girolamo Cardano were only two of the many who often researched probability and randomness of these games. This interest was later on concluded in the belief that the dice had no structure indeed when it falls and that it merely indicated the will of the gods and other supernatural forces.

The new dice still is an enigma, often considered to be the magic wand of another unpredictable force of supernatural power, mostly made of cellulose or any other plastic material and an essential component to the casino industry and home board games. A little known fact is that the Western dice is considered to be left-handed with the numbers on the cube positioned in a clockwise direction, while the dices of the Chinese is right-handed with the numbers in a counter-clockwise direction.