While excavating a looted 2,300-year-old tomb near Qingzhou City in China, archaeologists discovered pieces to what is believed to be a version of a board game that's not been played for 1,500 years.
Pieces of the game — referred to as "liubo" — found in the tomb include 21 rectangular game pieces with painted numbers, a broken tile decorated with two eyes as well as clouds and thunder, and a 14-sided die with the numbers 1 through 6 repeated twice and two blank sides. It's unclear how exactly the game was played given the relative obscurity of it, and surviving accounts of the rules differ greatly. It's believed that the rules likely changed over time and location. Whatever the case, the majority of them have to deal with sticks and dice.
Two ramps in the 330-foot-long tomb extend to a staircase that leads into the burial chamber proper. At one point, there would have been a burial mound on top, but that has since been cleared. Several pits exist to the side that once held goods for the deceased. The archaeologists believe it was built to buy aristocrats from Qi, one of the several warring Chinese states from the time period it was built.
The findings come from a 2004 excavation completed by Qingzhou Municipal Museum and Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology archaeologists who found 26 different shafts dug by looters into the tomb — one of which contained a human skeleton theorized to have been an unlucky thief. All this was published in the Chinese journal Wenwu back in 2014, with an English version of the report recently translated for the Chinese Cultural Relics journal.
It's interesting to imagine what future archaeologists might make of, say, Carcassonne, without a full set of rules in writing. Then again, humans of the present day have trouble remembering the exact rules behind Monopoly, of all things — and that doesn't even involve "meeple."