Gebeta (Mancala) holes from the Late Antiquity or early Medieval period in Aksum, Ethiopia.
Examples of rows with holes cut into stone are attested in the Neolithic period, which is dated in Jordan around 6000 BC.
Photo by S. Pop-Lazic
OTHER NAMES: Bao (Swahili), chanka/chungcajon (The Philippines), Kalah/Kalaha (modern USA)
(*More than 800 names of traditional mancala games are known)
The earliest physical evidence of Mancala is found in Ethiopia, which consist of a pottery Mancala board and some rock cuts dated around the 6th century. (1) The first writing (in Arab) about the game was dated to the 10th century. (2)
European explorer Richard Jobson observed and brought back accounts regarding Mancala in the early 17th century, and soon many merchants started to play the game. (3) In 1940, William Julius Champion Jr. from Colorado invented the most successful modern version of Mancala, named Kalah.
POSSIBLY THE OLDEST GAME
Some historians believe that Mancala is the oldest game in the world based on the archaeological evidence found in Jordan (Mediterranean region) that dates around 6000 BCE. Samples of stones were engraved with holes in a similar setup as Mancala. (4) These facts have been a back and forth debate between archaeologists and experts.
There is a large player base in the United States, and it is still a complicated and fun game for modern game play.
The origin of games is one of the oldest human civilization lineage, spanning over millenniums of development to date. From archaeological evidence traditional games is one of the fundamental aspect of life in the ancient world, and is paramount to the development of social culture and military strategies. Many of these games became modern day family fun for holidays and occasions to enjoy.