iPhone App: Senet

by Vincent on March 12, 2011

Have you ever played backgammon?

Well the ancient Egyptian game senet is much like backgammon. The word ‘senet’ in the ancient Egyptian language means passing and is an apt description of the game which involves moving the pieces around the board in am ‘S’ shaped path. The board is made up of 30 squares arranged into three parallel rows of ten squares. Each of the two opponents move their pieces along the path by throwing sticks to determine how many spaces they can move.

The exact rules of the game play have been lost as the game died out thousands of years ago but the rules have been reconstructed based on serious studies of archaeological evidence.

Peter A. Piccione, a doctoral candidate at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago and epigrapher for the Institute’s Epigraphic Survey at Luxor writes:

For almost a century, Egyptologists have struggled through fragmentary and incomplete evidence in an attempt to decipher the long-lost rules of senet. Several far-fetched reconstructions of the game surfaced but eventually sank under the weight of newer archaeological information. Recently, however, after several years of study incorporating new data, I have been able to substantially reconstruct both the methods and larger meaning of senet, so that the game can be better understood and even played again today.

This research demonstrates that the stratagems of the game reflect nothing less than the stratagems of the gods, and that senet, when properly understood, can reveal essential Egyptian religious beliefs about the afterlife. At the most, the game indicates that ancient Egyptians believed they could join the god of the rising sun, Re-Horakhty, in a mystical union even before they died. At the least, senet shows that, while still living, Egyptians felt they could actively influence the inevitable afterlife judgment of their souls – a belief that was not widely recognized by Egyptologists.

In Search of the Meaning of Senet

The earliest known reference to Senet can be found on a wall painting in the tomb of the Third Dynasty Pharaoh Hesy from about 2650 BC. A scene from the tomb of Nefertari ( 1295-1255 BC) shows her playing a game of Senet.

Senet Board

From the tomb of Nefertari – 1295-1255 Nefertari playing senet, from the tomb of Nefertari – 1295-1255 BC. The Brooklyn Museum has a blue faience senet board and playing pieces made in Thebes. It was inscribed with the name of Amunhotep III and dates to the New Kingdom (1390-1353 B.C.E.).
Faience Senet board by Keith Schengili-Robertssome rights reserved

In the Louvre is a wooden senet board dating to 1300 BC:

Wooden Senet Board

Photo by Gérard Ducher.
Photo by Gérard Duchersome rights reserved

Senet for iPhone

Now this ancient game can be played on a modern game board – the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Senet Delux iPhone game

Senet Deluxe is a truly unique strategy game. It features great animation, a soundtrack, an intelligent adversary, enforceable backwards moves, highlighting for acceptable moves, game statistics and online help. Be prepared to spend many hours with the most popular game of the antiquity.

Download the app by clicking on the App Store icon below:

Play Senet Online

Haven’t got an iPhone but would still like to play an electronic version of Senet?

This one can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store and played in the Chrome browser:

Download Senet Online.

You can also play Senet online at the British Museum’s website:

3 Responses to “iPhone App: Senet”

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  • QFI Chapter 23: Dues Ex Machina | says:

    […] a board and is akin to the modern game of Chutes and Ladders involving strategy.  The second game Senet is not completely understood, though thought to be similar to backgammon, but apparently it […]

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