The Big Dig at Caherduggan Castle: Find of the Week #4

Yesterday we brought you news of a leather belt that emerged from the excavation of a well at Caherduggan Castle. As the day wore on this phenomenal feature continued to give up its secrets, producing another find of extraordinary quality. It was so good we decided to break our ‘Find of the Week’ policy and bring you another object which provides us with a glimpse of life in medieval Ireland. Yesterday afternoon was the first time it was touched by human hands in hundreds of years, and we just couldn’t let the week pass without giving you an opportunity to see it!

Medieval die from the Caherduggan Castle well- note how the maker almost ran out of room for the '6'

Medieval die from the Caherduggan Castle well- note how the maker almost ran out of room for the '6'

Towards the bottom of the well our team discovered an exquisite gaming die, in almost perfect condition. We suspect it is broadly contemporary with the belt, most probably of High Medieval date. Whereas modern dice are designed so their opposite sides add up to seven, our Caherduggan example is sequential, so 1 is opposite 2, 3 is opposite 4 and 5 is opposite 6.

Using dice for gaming was a popular pastime in the medieval period, as gambling was as popular then as it is now. As is often seen with dice of this period our example indicates the numbers using a series of concentric rings. You will notice the maker had problems fitting all the numbers on, as they almost ran out of room for the number 6 and had to squeeze the rings to fit them in. This is hardly surprising given the tiny size of the die, with each face only 8mm across.

Medieval die with scale, showing the tiny size of this exquisite object

Medieval die with scale, showing the tiny size of this exquisite object

Thus far we have found a belt, shoes and this gaming die in the well. There would now seem to be almost overwhelming evidence to suggest that these objects represent the remains of an ancient game of strip poker that went horribly wrong- although we will have to withhold final judgement on this until we learn what else is discovered. Join us again next week to see what else will emerge!

The 1, 4 and 5 faces of the Caherduggan die

The 1, 4 and 5 faces of the Caherduggan die

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7 Responses to The Big Dig at Caherduggan Castle: Find of the Week #4

  1. Dave Swift December 3, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Another fantastic find! Is there any further info on the shoes? Are they a pair?

    Thanks for sharing all the info and pics to date,

    Dave Swift

    • Damian Shiels December 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

      Hi Dave, Not yet they are both off with the conservator but we will keep you updated- the shoes are from different areas and seem to be different types, which is good news as we will have a bit of variety!

  2. The Silver VoiceAngela December 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    That is a stunning little thing ! Is it wooden and do you know what wood?

    • Damian Shiels December 6, 2011 at 11:07 am #

      We think its wood, but we have to confirm with a specialist just to be sure- some were made of bone and some of wood

  3. Rosaleen O'Leary December 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    I hope all the local schools are following this blog. Nothing compares to the real thing!

  4. John Muccigrosso (@JD_PhD) January 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    Completely unaware of what medieval dice look like, but Roman examples do look like this. (I’m also unaware of the distribution of pip arrangements on dice.)

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  1. Medieval gaming die discovered in a well at some big castle, and it’s awesome. | GeekFreak - January 10, 2012

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