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Open access

Thomas Bronder

Abstract

The second part in the 1284 Book of Games of Alfonso X. contains the description of twelve medieval games of dice. Certain information on the amount and timing of bets of the players are only very briefly displayed and are completely missing in several games. The exact course of such games is therefore unknown. What did the players know about their chances of rolling dice and how they could use them when playing the dice? In order to imagine the process of betting for gain, the characteristics of these games of dice are examined and compared with contemporary games of chance.

Open access

Akane Okoshi and Alex de Voogt

Abstract

The American Museum of Natural History (amnh) has three mancala game boards in their collection that are connected with Suriname, formerly Dutch Guyana. One of these samples is exhibited in the amnh African Peoples Hall as part of a section on African Slavery and Diaspora. The games of Suriname were described by Melville J. Herskovits in an article dating to 1929, but the relation of these three boards with Herskovits has remained unclear. With the help of the Herskovits archives, the archival records of amnh and recent research on Surinamese Maroon communities, the history of these three boards is shown to be intimately linked with Herskovits’ broader intellectual project.

Open access

Amit S. Deshmukh

Abstract

Playing of sedentary games with dice and playing board games have had a major role in the Indian culture since at least 3000 BCE. This is shown by archaeological sites and early literary references in the Rig-Veda, Mahabharata and other texts. Some of these games have survived in the form of boards, game pieces, dice and cards. Apart from actual sets, the traces of board games can also be found in Hindu rock cut temples. These sculptures and paintings appear across the medieval period. The list is exhaustive. The game play also finds its presence on numerous temple floorings, carved or inscribed. Why would somebody carve these board games on these spaces? Interestingly, throughout history, some board games have increased its popularity, and some have disappeared from artistic expressional record. How did one board game overtake the other in terms of its popularity in the later phases of history? What made these games socially acceptable and popular? Where were these games played? What was the space context? The paintings dominantly show royal houses, court rooms as spaces. Were there special pavilions used for game playing by Indian royals? In India board games were traditionally played at ground level. With growing European influence in the subcontinent in the 18th century, local elites adopted the western custom of elevated furniture for board games. Did this change the space context?

The paper thus tries to evolve parameters to analyze the impact of board games on spaces and would throw light on the “space context” with reference to Indian board games tracing it to the contemporary time.

Open access

Thierry Depaulis

Abstract

Besides the ubiquitous patolli—a race game played on a cruciform gameboard—the Aztecs had obviously a few other board games. Unfortunately their names have not been recorded. We owe to Diego Durán, writing in the last quarter of the 16th century from local sources, some hints of what appears to be a “war game” and a second, different race game that he calls ‘fortuna’. A close examination of some Precolumbian codices shows a rectangular design with a chequered border, together with beans and gamepieces, which has correctly been interpreted as a board game. Many similar diagrams can be seen carved on stone in temples and public places, from Teotihuacan (c. 4th-7th century AD) to late Toltec times (9th-12th century AD). Of this game too we do not know the name. It has tentatively been called quauhpatolli (“eagle- or wooden-patolli”) by Christian Duverger (1978)—although this seems to have been the classic post-conquest Nahuatl name for the game of chess—or “proto-patolli”, and more concretely “rectángulo de cintas” (rectangle of bands) by William Swezey and Bente Bittman (1983).

The lack of any representation of this game in all Postcolumbian codices, as painted by Aztec artists commissioned by Spanish scholars interested in the Aztec culture, is clear indication that the game had disappeared before the Spanish conquest, at least in central Mexico. No Aztec site shows any such gameboard. Fortunately this game had survived until the 20th (and 21st!) century but located in the Tarascan country, now the state of Michoacán. It was discovered, unchanged, in a Tarascan (Purepecha) village by Ralph L. Beals and Pedro Carrasco, who published their find in 1944. At that time Beals and Carrasco had no idea the game was attested in early codices and Teotihuacan to Maya and Toltec archaeological sites. In Purepecha the game is called k’uillichi.

There is evidence of an evolution that led to a simplification of the game: less tracks, less gamesmen (in fact only one per player, while k’uillichi has four), and less ‘dice’. From a “complex” race game, the new debased version turned to be a simple single-track race game with no strategy at all. It is possible that this process took place in Michoacán. (A few examples of the simplified game were found in some Tarascan villages.) Also it seems the widespread use of the Nahua language, which the Spanish promoted, led to calling the game, and/or its dice, patol. As it was, patol proved to be very appealing and became very popular in the Mexican West, finally reaching the Noroeste, that is, the present North-West of Mexico and Southwest of the United States.

This seems to have been a recent trend, since its progress was observed with much detail by missionaries living in close contact with the Indians along what was called the ‘Camino Real’, the long highway that led from western Mexico to what is now New Mexico in the U.S. The Spanish themselves seem to have helped the game in its diffusion, unaware of its presence. It is clearly with the Spaniards that the patol game, sometimes also called quince (fifteen), reached the American Southwest and settled in the Pueblo and the Zuñi countries.

It is there that some newcomers, coming from the North or from the Great Plains, and getting in contact with the Pueblos in the 18th century, found the game and took it over. The Kiowas and Kiowa Apaches are noted for their zohn ahl (or tsoñä) game, while the Arapahos call it ne’bäku’thana. A careful examination of zohn ahl shows that it has kept the basic features of an ancient game that came—in Spanish times—from Mexico and may have been popular in Teotihuacan times. Its spread northward—through the Tarascan country—is, hopefully, well documented.

Open access

Bernd-Peter Lange

Open access

Chassica Kirchhoff

Abstract

The Thun-Hohenstein album, long-known as the Thun’sche Skizzenbuch, is a bound collection of 112 drawings that visualize armoured figures at rest and in combat, as well as empty armours arrayed in pieces. The collection gathers drawings that span the period from the 1470s to around 1590. While most of the images were executed in Augsburg during the 1540s, the album’s three oldest drawings date to the late-fifteenth century. Two of these works, which form a codicological interlude between the first and second quires, find parallels in the illustrations of contemporaneous martial treatises. This article traces the pictorial lineages of these atextual images through comparative analyses of fight books produced in the German-speaking lands, and considers how the representational strategies deployed in martial treatises inflected the ways that book painters and their audiences visualized the armoured body. This exploration situates a manuscript from which one of the drawings derives, Peter Falkner’s Art of Knightly Defense, now in Vienna, within the Augsburg book painters’ workshops that would later give rise to the Thun album. Finally, this study considers how the transmission and representation of martial knowledge in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Augsburg contributed to the later depictions of armoured bodies that populate the album.

Open access

Ken Mondschein

Abstract

The author presents a study of Bibliothèque National de France MS Latin 11269, a manuscript that he argues was associated with the court of Leonello d’Este and which represents an attempt to “fix” or “canonize” a vernacular work on a practical subject in erudite Latin poetry. The author reviews the life of Fiore dei Liberi and Leonello d’Este and discusses the author’s intentions in writing, how the manuscript shows clear signs of Estense associations, and examines the manuscript both in light of its codicological context and in light of humanist activity at the Estense court. He also presents the evidence for the book having been in the Estense library. Finally, he examines the place of the manuscript in the context of the later Italian tradition of fencing books. A complete concordance is presented in the appendix.

Open access

Jürg Gassmann

Abstract

The cavalry horse, tactics and training in Western Europe – the Euro-pean provinces of the Roman Empire of the West and the Frankish Empire – du-ring the Early Middle Ages (c. 500-1000) are still subject to many myths in both popular media and academic literature. Source material is admittedly thin, yet it is specific enough to allow us to correct many of these misconceptions and outright errors.

The article initially summarises the current state of knowledge on the war horse of the period, by reference to the archaeological record. It then reviews the cavalry’s battlefield tactics, derives the skill level required to execute the manoeuvres described in the sources, and analyses where and how this training could have been provided.

The information gleaned provides an insight into the skills and expertise neces-sary to achieve the requisite sophisticated level of horsemanship. We shall argue that these imply a considerable investment in organisational infrastructure, per-sonnel and institutional memory, which has so far not received much academic attention, and has wider implications for our view of the era.

Open access

Daniel Jaquet

Abstract

A growing body of research on fight books and historical European martial arts has appeared in academic circles over the last fifteen years. It has also broken through the doors of patrimonial institutions. From curiosities in exhibitions about knighthood, to dedicated temporary exhibitions about historical European martial arts, the fight books have received more and more attention from museum professionals. This article attempts to present an exhaustive list of fight books displayed in museum exhibitions over the last fifty years. It then proposes a critical view about how and why they were displayed from the perspective of the curators, based on a review of the exhibition catalogues.

Open access

Bartłomiej Walczak and Bartosz Starko

Abstract

Additional witnesses containing fragments of Martin Hundsfeld and Andre Lignitzer’s dagger teachings were located. These teachings were part of other anonymous dagger texts. Five of Lignitzer’s plays and three Hundsfeld’s can be found in the works of Gregor Erhart (MS E.1939.65.354), Lienhart Sollinger (Cgm 3712) and Paulus Hector Mair (C.94, Codex 10825). A synoptic comparison of these witnesses with other representatives points to the existence of at least two other manuscripts – one that was base for Erhart and Sollinger, and the other being the base for Paulus Hector Mair’s works. Additionally, the analysis seems to suggest that the Proto-Erhart was based on the original proto-manuscript, not transmitted through other known sources. Interestingly, Erhart seems to be a faithful copy of its progenitor, even though it contains a very disorganized text, where dagger techniques are mixed with other weapons. The article contains transcriptions as well as updated stemmae codicum for these traditions.