A new archeological discovery proves that people have always tried to find an edge when gambling, even if that edge is not entirely legal. A pair of wooden dice, which were estimated to be nearly 600-years-old, had two fives, and two fours, instead of the numbers one and two, indicating that the dice were likely used to cheat in dice games that were popular in the 1400's.
One game was called "passe-dix" in which gamblers would roll three dice in an attempt to roll a number larger than ten. The first player to score under a ten loses. Having a die with two fives, and two fours vastly increases the chances of rolling over a ten.
The dice were found near a wooden street, leading to questions about how they ended up discarded on the side of the road. Christian Underhaug, who is leading the excavations in Bergen, wondered if the dice were discarded by the cheater, to prevent being caught, or if they were thrown away in anger by a victim of the cheater.
Archaeologist Ingrid Rekkavik said that while gambling was illegal and gamblers could face stiff penalties including fines of 107 grams of silver, it was still widespread in the area.
“It’s exciting to imagine this dice’s last game – was the cheater revealed?” wrote Rekkavik. “What happened to the dice? Was it perhaps thrown away by the nervous cheater eager to get rid of evidence? Or was it angrily thrown by an opponent, to where it ended up being found over 600 years later?”