27. The origin of draughts
Many ancient Christian churches kept the line draught board in the shape of an inscription. In editions of 2013 and 2015 Govert Westerveld (left below) published an anthology with the discoveries of these inscriptions, with help of the Italian researcher Marisa Umberti (right below), who specializes in the morris board.
As the morris board can occur together with the line draught board, the Italian could note down draught boards too. In this chapter I understand by the morris board a shape like this:
Older cultures don’t make a distinction between holy and profane, like we do, these two are interwoven. For this reason, it is allowed to take the line draught board in a floor-slab of a chapel in Jerusalem [Westerveld 2013:20] as a proof that in this city draughts was played. The same is true for two stones with carved gaming boards found in the ancient Roman city Munigua near Sevilla. One stone had on one side the line draught board and on the other side the morris board; a second stone had a line draught board and a morris board next to each other [Westerveld 2013:25-31].
The big problem of inscriptions is always the dating, and this holds also for the inscriptions collected by Westerveld and Uberti. Friedrich Berger [2003:100] raises this matter in his section Conclusions. The morris board occurs in a Roman surrounding since 200 AD, he observes. He cannot exclude, however, that some inscriptions of the morris board in the Alps are older.
Inscriptions neither of the morris board nor of the line draughts board [photo, received with gratitude by Uberti: a board in the Vatican) are found in classical Rome. And there are no references to these games in the literature of the Romans. For this reason, Berger meant where he wrote about a Roman surrounding tribes speaking a Latin dialect. The members of these tribes can be Germanic people who in a long process adopted Latin as their main language.
The outcome of my analysis of the names for line draughts in chapter 8: they are older than 500 AD. It is not allowed to take the inscriptions I mentioned above as an affirmation of my analyses, but I cannot say they contradict my dating.
There are no references of the original name for line draughts, which derives from the Latin word marrus = stone, gaming piece, but we do have references of names in Spanish, Italian and French that are continuations of this Latin name. Berger’s research affirms it: inscriptions of morris are found in regions where Latin dialects were spoken.
No medieval line draught board has come down to us. In any case few medieval gaming boards are kept: some 64 squares boards, that is all.
A question by Westerveld [2013:142]: why do archeologists find so few line draught boards in southern Spain, where the Moors stood their ground long against the Christian queen Isabelle and her predecessors? Well, Westerveld’s sites are for the greater part churches. Churches are (mostly) ancient buildings, which keep the past. Is it possible that the Moors, Muslims, destroyed many churches in southern Spain? The city Munigua and the manuscript with board games made for king Alfonso prove that the line draught board also occurred in the south of Spain.