The world's oldest d20 die

World's oldest d20 die

In the world of tabletop gaming, few objects hold as much mystique and history as the venerable 20-sided die (d20). This iconic polyhedral die has been instrumental in countless roleplaying adventures, guiding the destinies of adventurers for decades. But have you ever wondered about the oldest d20 die in existence?

From ancient civilizations to the evolution of modern gaming, this article embarks on a quest to uncover the history and origin of the world's oldest d20 die, shedding light on the fascinating journey of this timeless Egyptian artifact.

Did the d20 exist before D&D?

Yes, the 20-sided die was used before Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). The icosahedron (the geometric shape of a d20) was commonly used in Ancient Hellenistic and Roman times, albeit for very different purposes.

While the d20 had a pre-existing history, it became a mainstay in popular culture primarily because of its prominent role in D&D and other tabletop role-playing games.

What is the oldest d20 die?

Dating back to somewhere between the 2nd century BC and the 4th century AD, this venerable d20 hails from the fascinating world of ancient Egypt.

World's oldest d20 die

Made from serpentinite, a greenish rock often used for jewellery and small sculptures, this ancient d20 die is engraved with Greek letters, and the symbols for eta, theta, and epsilon can be clearly seen.

Today, this remarkable piece of history resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, USA. The d20 was acquired by Reverend Chauncey Murch during his missionary work in Egypt, spanning the years from 1883 to 1906.

What was it used for?

The purpose of polyhedral dice, like the ancient d20 above, are cloaked in mystery. Historians, dice goblins and dice dragons continue to speculate about their original function. Although the exact use of these ancient artifacts remains unconfirmed, there are several intriguing theories surrounding them.

While there is no concrete evidence that this specific d20 was ever used as a die in the context of a game, wear around the edges suggests that it might have been rolled. This has led to the supposition that it could have been employed in some form of game or chance-based activity that has been lost to history.

Both sides of the world's oldest d20 die

Alternatively, such polyhedral dice were often linked to divination rituals, especially in Ancient Greece. In these practices, the casting of dice played a role in interpreting omens, predicting the future, or making decisions based on perceived signs from the divine.

When was the 20-sided die invented?

The exact date of the invention of the 20-sided die is not known. However, several ancient dice from what is believed to be the Roman era have been recovered, including the world’s most expensive d20 which is made of glass.

Additionally, there are other icosahedrons from the same period and one made of faience.

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