A bone dice discovered at Berkeley close to a demolished Tudor pub

On Friday afternoon one of our first years Duncan discovered a small dice similar to those associated with those from the Tudor period. He made this finding in an area close to the former location of a Tudor Tavern or Inn called 'The Crown Inn'. This supports information suggesting that dice games were extremely popular in the Tudor period. Gambling on dice was seen to be the most popular board game of all in Tudor times and Shakespeare regularly refers to dice gambling in his plays. It was a popular activity amongst all classes, with wealthy players using dice manufactured from gold or silver, but most were made from ivory, wood and bone. This popularity meant that cheating was also common in the Tudor period with weighted dice being found to contain lead which makes it more likely to land on the higher numbers. Although it does not appear that Duncan's find was weighted, therefore is an honest dice, but in previous seasons we have found evidence of this type of cheating.

“It was too much of an irregular shape and texture for it to blend in with the layer I was cleaning.” Duncan

The c.1544 sketch map below shows our Trench 8 area in Berkeley and was drawn by Moyle. It shows The Crown Tavern 
(circled in red) positioned between St. Michaels Lane and the road to Berkeley Castle. The Crown, was a Tudor building 
which was later demolished during the English Civil War, and Duncan's dice was found in a context associated with the 
construction or use of the pub (these layers are still under excavation). A Tavern or Inn would be a likely place to 
discover game artefacts as it was important part of social life in Tudor times for both rich and poor.

c.1544 sketch map of Berkeley by Moyles
Duncan's Dice from Berkeley

The dice shown below was found in 2010 during archaeological excavations at William Shakespeare's New Place, 
which had been his family home from 1597. It is made of bone and is very small - only 7mm across, making it very 
similar in size to ours, with carved markings representing the numbers on each side. By comparing the images of 
Duncan's and Shakespeare's dices, you can see they have the same style of dots - an outer ring surrounding a 
central dot, making it likely they are from roughly around the same time period. 

Dice from Shakespeare's New Place

Like typical dice the opposite sides add up to seven. However, some dice have been found where the numbers
had been altered and consequently do not add up to 7, in order to gain unfair advantages in specific games. 
Duncan's find at Berkeley is an example of a standard dice.
Fun Fact: According to some sources dice was once the plural of die, 
but in modern standard English dice can mean both singular and plural.


Prior, S. The berkeley castle dig project 2005-2018.Ppt.x


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