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Topics: Topics: Sports and Entertainment
Society and Culture > Sports and Entertainment

Ancient Egyptians enjoyed games of strategy and chance in which pieces were moved on specially designed boards. One game involving six lions and six sets of balls, played from the predynastic to early Old Kingdom, was called "mehen." Another game, called hounds and jackals, appears to be a race between a team of five jackals and five hounds around a palm tree. Little is known about the rules for these games.

The most popular game was senet. A precursor of checkers, senet was played on a checkered board of three rows of ten squares. The object of the game was to move the pieces around a snaking track to the finish. Specially marked squares indicated good or bad fortune. Dice was played in the Roman and Byzantine periods into the Islamic era.

Scenes from tombs and temples in all periods show musicians and dancers. Musical performances were important to the cults of the deities and kings and the Egyptians used a variety of instruments, including drums, flutes, harps, tambourines, and trumpets. Dancing was considered an honorable career for a woman and probably required a great degree of grace and athleticism to perform the acrobatic movements depicted in temple scenes. Dancing was performed at funerals, festivals, banquets, and other events in ancient Egyptian life. Singing was another popular form of entertainment as well as a means of honoring the gods, as indicated by the title "Chantress of Amun," held by women of the elite class. Few written lyrics of ancient Egyptian songs have been found, except for some texts of love songs from the Ramesside period found in Deir el-Medina.

Ancient Egyptian royalty and high officials enjoyed attending sports competitions. Boxing, wrestling, and fencing with sticks were favorite events. The ancient Egyptians also held a form of early Olympics featuring field hockey, handball, gymnastics, weightlifting, equestrian competitions, swimming, rowing, archery, spear throwing, long distance running, high jump, and tug of war.

Children played less organized games involving balancing, wrestling, and racing as well as ball games with balls made from papyrus. Children had many toys to play with, usually made to resemble animals and people.

After the Greco-Roman conquest, theater became a popular form of entertainment. Parts of plays were discovered on the scrap papyri used to make cartonnage mummy covers. Sporting competitions were still important; Ptolemy the Second established a festival called the Ptolemaieia that occurred every four years and was intended to rival the Olympics.

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Box with Carved Scenes of King Tutankhamun and His Queen
Box with Carved Scenes of King Tutankhamun and His Queen

Box / Chest / Casket

Boomerang of King Tutankhamun
Boomerang of King Tutankhamun

Warfare / Hunting and Fishing Equipment

Bird-Shaped Toy from the Tomb of Tutankhamun
Bird-Shaped Toy from the Tomb of Tutankhamun

Games and Toys

Amenhotep the Second
Amenhotep the Second

King

Dancing Dwarfs
Dancing Dwarfs

Games and Toys

Hollow Ball Type of Musical Instrument
Hollow Ball Type of Musical Instrument

Musical Instruments

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