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Dés coptes ? Dés indiens ?

Thierry Depaulis 1
1 historien local
Chercheur indépendant
Abstract : optic Dice? Indian Dice? Several European and American public collections store in their departments of Graeco-Roman, Egyptian, Oriental and sometimes also Islamic antiquities, bone or ivory parallelepipeds, inscribed with dots on their four long sides; they are generally held for four-sided dice. The arrangement of dots always follows a 1-6/2-5 pattern. Such dice are popular in India too, still today. The so-called Graeco-Roman dice (sometimes misleadingly called tali) look very much like their modern Indian counterparts: they have the same arrangement of dots, which is puzzling, because this arrangement is anything but obvious. However, in ancient times, India had another rectangular die, of the same shape, but with different numbers, 1-2/3-4. This contribution seeks to explain the enigma of the origin and diffusion of these Mediterranean dice. These dice could well be Coptic, as the corpus presented here shows. They range chronologically between the last centuries BCE and the early Islamic period in Egypt. Two types can be distinguished: one, simple and functional, was certainly used for play (but for which games?), the other, overloaded with clusters of dots, seems to be associated with some magical rituals. In India, a clear change in the arrangement of dots of these parallelepipedic dice can be observed around 1000 AD: the ancient 1-2/3-4 pattern disappears, while dice with the “modern” 1-6/2-5 arrangement are introduced. Could this new pattern come from Egypt? And why this change? We offer here a few hypotheses.
Keywords : Copts dice Egypt India
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Thierry Depaulis. Dés coptes ? Dés indiens ?. Archimède : archéologie et histoire ancienne, UMR7044 - Archimède, 2019, pp.100-112. ⟨halshs-02895545⟩

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