You may have noticed that there are a few Egypt-themed games available to play on Health Games, such as Cleopatra, Temple of Ausar Super Jackpot and Rise of the Pharaohs. What is it about Ancient Egypt that captures the imagination? And did the Egyptians love to game as much as the modern world does?
Gambling in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians loved games, as evidenced by the fact that they were often buried with Senet boards and other games so they could play in the afterlife. The hieroglyph that represented a game piece was part of words meaning “draughtsman” and “to dance”, perhaps because these two actions reminded the Egyptians of the movement of game pieces across the board.
The ancient Egyptians also played games involving throwing dice, disks, stones, and sticks. Some of these may have been used for divination as well as recreation.
Egyptomania Sweeps the West
Modern Western culture first began to learn of Ancient Egypt in 1798, when Napoleon's expedition from Egypt returned to France. Many of the treasures first seized by Napoleon were in return seized by the British, and so both France and Britain learned about the ancient pyramids and the wonders contained within.
This set off the first bout of “Egyptomania.” People were fascinated by the pyramids, the pharaohs, and the mummies. This led to tourism to Egypt, and also to tomb raiding as people wanted their own ancient treasures to take home, regardless of the legality or moral rightness of taking grave goods to another country. Not everyone sought out illegal souvenirs, though. Many were happy to support local artisans by purchasing the famous Assiut cloth, or jewellery fashioned in the image of scarabs and sphinxes.
A whole new round of Egyptomania hit in the 1920s with the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. This time is often known as the “Egyptian Revival” and influenced the Art Deco movement style.
Egyptian Themes in Games
Egyptomania has never really gone away. We probably all experience it at some point in our lives, usually as children when we first read about the pyramids or see a sarcophagus in a museum, or perhaps catch one of the many Mummy movies for the first time.
It should come as no surprise then that modern gamblers love Egyptian themes as much as ancient Egyptians loved their games. It’s not just the centuries of mystery and romance that we’ve built around this culture, but also the strong iconography. The beautiful gold and blue colours, the bold lines of a sarcophagus, the pleasing shape of a scarab, the pointed ears of the god Anubis. These all look great on a slot machine or as part of an online instant win game!
Egyptian iconography is so popular that there is an entire casino dedicated to it in Las Vegas. The Luxor boasts a pyramid shape with a beam of light emitting from the top, and a doorway through a giant sphinx.
Return of Stolen Artefacts
Even as we enjoy our modern games, it’s important not to lose sight of the roots of Egyptomania. Not every Egyptian artefact that we’ve admired in a museum was taken from Egypt legally. There are efforts underway to repatriate stolen treasures, so that they can be displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. These efforts include items that are displayed in major museums, as well as those in private collections which were originally stolen, smuggled, or otherwise illegally traded. It is especially important for us to be sensitive when we consider that many of these beautiful items were the grave goods of the ancestors of the modern Egyptians.
Moving forward, we should be respectful of the dead while still enjoying the beautiful artwork that they left behind, and the modern games they have inspired.