Rolling the Roman dice – ancient game artefact unearthed in Faro

A Roman game artefact believed to date back to the first century AD has been unearthed in Faro – a discovery archaeologists say is unlike most of its kind.

The rare game piece was found during works to turn a former Banif bank into a restaurant on Rua Ivens in downtown Faro on September 30.

It was located inside what is believed to be an ancient Roman sewage pipe and is unique in the sense that it appears to be made out of wood and not bone or ivory, like most dice from that time. Its shape, described as “similar to a parallelepiped”, is also unusual.

“We know that this was a residential area,” said Francisco Rosa Correia, an archaeologist from ERA Arqueologia which is in charge of monitoring the works from an archaeological point of view.

Speaking to Barlavento newspaper, he also reported the discovery of glass – some of which from a window, which is “quite rare” – as well as ceramics of “very good quality which suggest they belonged to wealthy people”.

Other artefacts believed to have been used as game pieces, almost as if they were draughts pieces, were also unearthed.

João Pedro Bernardes, a History, Archaeology and Heritage professor at the University of the Algarve, said that the die was well-made which shows that “those who used it were part of aristocratic elite”.

In fact, further “surprises” about the main artefact could be revealed if a deeper study is carried out.

“It is without a doubt a unique specimen,” said Lídia Fernandes, coordinator of Lisbon Museum’s “Roman Theatre”.

If further research finds that the die is in fact from the first century, it would become one of the “very few” from that time period to be discovered in the Algarve, the specialist explained.

Original article written by Bruno Filipe Pires for Barlavento newspaper.