One pair of antler six sided dice
There have been laws banning dice games on the books throughout history and many a royal account listed for paying off debts of losses from dice and other gambling. Gambling was outlawed in Rome, however it didn’t stop people at all. Henry VII banned dice and gambling among his servants because he felt the poor couldn’t control themselves. This is ironic because there are accounts in both Henry VII’s and his son Henry VIII’s expense books of the payment of gambling debts from all types of gambling including cards and dice. During times of prohibition I am sure people made dice at home or in wood shops with wood working and jeweler tools, or even just a whittling knife, for making them is not hard at all.
Lady MwynwenYginidd is the wife of a sailor and the proprietor of a brewpub. She passes her time with games of chance that can be played with her patrons as well as with her husband when he is in port. There are many documents of dice games that were very popular during the Tudor time. Games of chance played with dice such as Hazzard and 31, along with race games such as Goose and Backgammon, all used six sided dice. These dice are intended to help create a Tudor gaming set for my Fifty year goal which is to make my persona and my kit more solid and more period correct.
These dice are designed to be in a Tudor gambling set. As such I looked toward the Mary Rose find for reference and examples.
“Eleven bone dice were recovered, the smallest measuring just 4.8mm across. The largest, at 7.8mm, wasn't significantly larger. Why were they so small?
Well, it could have something to do with gaming legislation brought in in 1541 - The Unlawful Games Act, which forbade pretty much any gaming pursuits that weren't archery. Since this clearly includes dice games, which at the time were essentially used for gambling, their small size would have made it easier to hide them. (How this allows the carpenter to own a Backgammon board is another question.)
Of course, it could just be that the bones they were using to make the dice were only between 4.8mm and 7.8mm in diameter.
There are six sided dice found all the way back to as far as Mesopotamia (7000 years ago). It was in Medieval Europe that the popularity of dice games soared, starting in the 1100s with a game called Hazard (the precursor to Craps) that was played by both aristocrats and commoners. “They dance and play at dice both day and night,” wrote Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. These games were so popular that over the ensuing centuries dice guilds and schools formed all over Western Europe. That didn’t stop the Catholic Church from attempting to ban all gambling games, though. Over the next few hundred years, dozens of popes, bishops, and priests instituted bans against dicing games. And just like in ancient Rome, the bans didn’t stop people from playing them.
Most unearthed medieval dice are made of bone, antler, jet, clay or wood. In medieval and Tudor times the positioning of the pips could be found in two different configurations which are different from Roman or Modern times. The second system, only found during the middle ages, was 1 opposite 2, 3 opposite 4 and 5 opposite 6 (instead of the opposite sides totaling 7). Medieval dice are small, compared to modern ones;sizes between 5-12 mm exist, while modern dice tend to be 12.5mm or larger. False medieval dice used for cheating also existed. A London find contained a whole set of false dice; some were weighted, and some had more sixes or ones .
I choose to use antler because I like the texture, weight, workability, and availability of it. Most dice found are listed as bone even if they are antler because dice are not considered such a rare thing to find. As such, they are not tracked as well as rare antiquities. Most of the Dice I could find before the 1600’s that were listed as Antler were Viking time period between 790’ and 1066.
[Photo 1. is the antler with the beginnings of the first cut being made.]
On the British Islands, Red Deer, Fallow Deer, and Roe Deer were all common in the royal forests. The forests of England were normally owned by the reigning monarch, only the monarch or his servants hunted in the forests. Permission could be granted by the granting of a royal license. However, while Fallow Deer don’t shed their antlers, the Red Deer and Roe Deer stags have antlers which start growing in the spring and are shed each year, usually at the end of winter. The shed antler could be gathered to make dice.
[Photo 2. is the chunk of antler cut out but not even or cut into the two cubes yet.]
I used hacksaw blades to cut the material holding it in a vice for control. I then marked and pipped the dice, Pips on Dice though out the ages could be made simply as small holes as I did, which is how the dice on the Mary Rose are.Or a center hole with concentric circles.
[photo 3. The dice cubes cut and pips drilled in it with one of the dies having the pips filled withbee’s wax that has been blacked with carbon soot.]
I bought a box hacksaw blades for this project and changed blades often at the advice of Master Philippe because of the hard nature and therefore dulling properties of the antler on the blades. I have been advised that working antler and bone wet cuts down on dust. Saws existed period e bows would have been wood were as today they are metal, as did drills also mostly wood. A simple nail pounded flat could work to make a drill bit to make pips. I used a metal caliper to make sure all sides were the same size. I rolled them 100 times to get a fair sampling for there being true to a fair roll.
I have seen a rare example of pips that have the remnants of metal in them. I feel this would be bad because side 6 would have more weight than side one. I made the decision to put blacked bees wax in mine for the practical purpose of being able to read them better especial in low light of the camp tables. Lamp black and bees wax was available during the time period as such I think this is not a far leap of practicality.
Finished products are a little less than 8mm in size.
Finished dice with pips blacked with bees wax.
Left; Bone dice from Amersfoot, the Netherlands dating from the 14th Century. Right; Two systens of arranging pips from 12/13th century dice made of jet from York, UK. 11079 is our current systen, 11078 uses the alternitive medival system.
2. Swiss Museum of Gameswww.museedujeu.ch/
3. The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
4. The Privy Purse Expenses of King Henry VIII from November MDXXIX, to December MDXXXII, www.gutenberg.org
6. Master Philippe de Lyon
7. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-m-clabby/five-tiny-things-recovere_b_8176306.html (Photos of Dice)
http://www.theunbrokenthread.com/blog/2014/05/17/sightseeing-in-england-mary-rose-and-dyrham-house/(Photos of Dice)
(Photos of Dice)