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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