Dice games have been around since before recorded history. They are prevalent in many games we play today. In this This Just In! we take a look at the history of dice and feature the dice game called Galloping Golf.

Dice are small throw-able polyhedrons that can rest in multiple positions. A traditional die is a cube with six faces showing a different number of dots, or pips, from one to six. The faces can also contain words or pictures, or take on other shapes, such as a pyramid (4-sided die) or an icosahedron (20-sided die). Dice are generally used to generate a random outcome.

A Brief History of Dice

Dice have been used for at least 5,000 years in connection with board games, primarily for the movement of playing pieces. The precursors of dice were magical devices that people used for the casting of lots to divine the future such as knucklebones with markings on the four faces. Excavated at the Burnt City, an archeological site in south-eastern Iran, the oldest known dice are estimated to be from between 2800-2500 BCE. They were part of backgammon-like game set. Later in Greek and Roman times, most dice were made of bone and ivory, but could also be made from bronze, agate, alabaster, marble, and other materials. Cubical dice with markings similar to those of modern dice have been found in Chinese excavations from 600 BCE and in Egyptian tombs dating from 2000 BCE. The first written record of dice appears in the ancient Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, composed in India more than 2,000 years ago.

The concepts of randomness and probability were not conceived until the 16th century when dice games were subjected to mathematical analysis by the likes of Girolamo Cardano and Galileo as well as many others. Until then, the prevalent attitude had been that dice and similar objects fell the way they did because of the indirect action of gods or supernatural forces.

A typical dice game today is Yahtzee, where five dice are thrown and the player has to make certain combinations to gain points. When all five faces show the same number, the player scores a Yahtzee! worth 50 points, the highest in the game. Dice are also frequently used to randomize moves in board games, usually by deciding the distance through which a piece will move along the board (such as in Monopoly or Backgammon). Dice are also commonly used for role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).

Galloping Golf

Our featured game called Galloping Golf is a dice game based on playing 18 holes of golf. Galloping Golf is played by rolling five dice of different colors. These are then scored in a particular order and the words on each face determine the number of strokes for each hole. While not much is known about the game, we do know it originated in the 1950’s. We also know this version was manufactured by Bee-Line Products Co. This game was manufactured by many different companies including a version by Wilson Sporting Goods. The dice are a collectible feature and are made of Bakelite or Catalin material.

Do you have any items relating to Edmonds and South Snohomish County history that you wish to donate to the Museum? We would love to hear from you! Please fill out the Artifact Donation form, http://www.historicedmonds.org/artifact-donation/. For further information, please contact us at artifacts@historicedmonds.org.

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