Last Look

Games people played

Carved in stone in Kenya: a game of skill.

This ancient mancala game is only one of a large arcade of games that were dug into the rocks hundreds—possibly thousands—of years ago, in what is now the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in central Kenya. The locals who showed Yale archaeologist Veronica Waweru around the conservancy also brought her to the game site, and one of her companions told her his grandfather had played a two-person game of strategy like this one (although that generation probably competed on wooden boards). Herders often played mancala for entertainment while their animals grazed.  
Waweru’s team is now trying to figure out why those games were placed where they are and when they were created. “My suspicion is that the arcade at Lewa is related to the 19 burial mounds found there,” says Waweru. “There were repeated gatherings of people for some ritual communal purpose.”

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