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"Senat" redirects here. For the Polish Senat, see Senate of Poland.
Senet game pieces (Tutankhamun).jpg
A senet gameboard and game pieces from the KV62 tomb of Tutankhamun—originally from Thebes

Senet (or Senat[1]) is a board game from ancient Egypt. The oldest hieroglyph resembling a senet game dates to around 3100 BC.[2] The full name of the game in Egyptian is thought to have been zn.t n.t ḥˁb, meaning the "game of passing".[3]


Senet in hieroglyphs

Senet (Sn.t, "passage/gateway")
Maler der Grabkammer der Nefertari 003.jpg
Painting in tomb of Egyptian Queen Nefertari (1295–1255 BC)

Senet is one of the oldest known board games. Fragmentary boards that could be senet have been found in First Dynasty burials in Egypt,[2] c. 3100 BC. A hieroglyph resembling a senet board appears in the tomb of Merknera (33002700 BC).[4] The first unequivocal painting of this ancient game is from the Third Dynasty tomb of Hesy (c. 2686–2613 BC). People are depicted playing senet in a painting in the tomb of Rashepes, as well as from other tombs of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties (c. 2500 BC).[5] The oldest intact senet boards date to the Middle Kingdom, but graffiti on Fifth and Sixth Dynasty monuments could date as early as the Old Kingdom.[3]

At least by the time of the New Kingdom in Egypt (15501077 BC), senet was conceived as a representation of the journey of the ka to the afterlife. This connection is made in the Great Game Text, which appears in a number of papyri, as well as the appearance of markings of religious significance on senet boards themselves. The game is also referred to in Chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead.[6]

Senet also was played by people in neighboring cultures, and it probably came to those places through trade relationships between Egyptians and local peoples.[7] It has been found in the Levant at sites such as Arad[8] and Byblos, as well as in Cyprus.[9] Because of the local practice of making games out of stone, there are more senet games that have been found in Cyprus than have been found in Egypt.[10]


The senet gameboard is a grid of 30 squares, arranged in three rows of ten. A senet board has two sets of pawns (at least five of each). Although details of the original game rules are a subject of some conjecture, senet historians Timothy Kendall and R. C. Bell have made their own reconstructions of the game.[11] These rules are based on snippets of texts that span over a thousand years, over which time gameplay is likely to have changed. Therefore, it is unlikely these rules reflect the actual course of ancient Egyptian gameplay.[7] Their rules have been adopted by sellers of modern senet sets.

See also[edit]

  • Mehen – another ancient Egyptian game
  • Patolli – a game of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures
  • Royal Game of Ur – an ancient Mesopotamian game
  • Tâb – a Middle Eastern game that is sometimes confused with senet


  1. ^ A History of Board Games
  2. ^ a b In Search of the Meaning of Senet by Peter A. Piccione
  3. ^ a b Piccione, Peter (1990). The Historical Development of the Game of Senet and its Significance for Ancient Egyptian Religion. Chicago: Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of Chicago. 
  4. ^ Pivotto, Carlos; et al. "Detection of Negotiation Profile and Guidance to more Collaborative Approaches through Negotiation Games" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-10-02. 
  5. ^ Metha, Melissa; et al. "Perancangan Permainan Media Edukasi Sebagai Pembelajaran Cara Melindungi Diri Dalam Menghadapi Bencana Aalam Bagi Anak Usia 7-12 Tahun". Retrieved 2014-10-06. 
  6. ^ "Egyptian Symbols: Senet". Retrieved 23 February 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Crist, Walter; et al. (2016). "Facilitating Interaction: Board Games as Social Lubricants in the Ancient Near East". Oxford Journal of Archaeology. 35 (2): 179–196. 
  8. ^ Sebbane, Michael (2001). "Board Games from Canaan in the Early and Intermediate Bronze Ages and the Origin of the Egyptian Senet Game". Tel Aviv. 28: 213–30. 
  9. ^ Swiny, Stuart (1986). The Kent State Expedition to Episkopi-Phaneromeni. Nicosia: Paul Astroms Forlag. 
  10. ^ Crist, Walter; et al. (2016). Ancient Egyptians at Play: Board Games across Borders. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-4742-2117-7. 
  11. ^ Soubeyrand, Catherine. "The Game of Senet". Retrieved 2014-10-25. 


  • Crist, Walter; Anne-Elizabeth Dunn-Vaturi; Alex de Voogt (2016). Ancient Egyptians at Play: Board Games Across Borders. New York, NY: Bloomsbury. pp. 41–80. ISBN 978-1-4742-2117-7. 
  • Piccione, Peter A. (2007). Finkel, Irving L., ed. Ancient Board Games in perspective. London: British Museum Press. pp. 54–63. ISBN 978-0-714-11153-7. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]