Set of bone counters
Roman, late 2nd-mid 3rd century AD
Found during excavations by Winchester Museums Service Archaeology Section at Victoria Road, Winchester in the mid- to late 1970s
The counters came from a cremation burial in the cemetery outside Roman Winchester's north gate. The cremated bone, that of an adolescent, was in a pottery urn, and two further pots were provided as grave goods. There are 29 counters, one short of a set for duodecim scripta, a race and capture game similar to backgammon. Many have scratched graffiti and other marks, although what these signify is uncertain.
Roman grave goods are often found broken or incomplete, as if to show that they were only to be used in places where the living cannot go. Perhaps the dead person's relatives were hoping that he or she would enjoy leisure in the afterlife.
Photo by John Crook.