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Set of bone counters

Set of bone counters.

Roman, late 2nd to mid 3rd century AD.

Found during excavations by the Archaeological Section of the Winchester Museum Service on Victoria Road, Winchester, in the mid to late 1970s.

The counters were taken from a cremation burial in the cemetery at the north gate of Roman Winchester. The cremated teenager's bone was in a pottery urn, and two other pots were provided as grave goods. There are 29 tokens here, one short of the set for duodecim scripta, a backgammon-like game of elimination. Many have graffiti and other signs on them, though what they mean is unknown.

Roman grave goods are often found broken or incomplete, as if to show that they were to be used only in places where the living cannot go. Perhaps the relatives of the deceased hoped that he or she would enjoy rest in the afterlife.