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RECREATION OR DECORATION: WHAT WERE THE GLASS COUNTERS FROM POMPEII USED FOR?

  • H.E.M. Cool
Abstract

This paper considers the small glass objects often called counters, which are common finds at Pompeii, and normally thought to have been used in playing games. An assemblage of over 500 stratigraphically dated examples from Insula VI.1 are examined, and the colour and size of this group are compared to a dataset of first-century ad glass counters found in graves where they can be shown with certainty to be part of gaming sets. The comparisons show that the bulk of the Pompeii counters are very unlikely to have been used in gaming, a conclusion that is supported by the types of counters that would have been necessary to play games such as ludus latrunculorum and ludus duodecim scriptorum. Other functions are considered and it is suggested that many of the Pompeiian counters might have been used for interior decoration. The rise of a specialist production of counters that could have been used in gaming is demonstrated, and it is suggested this might have implications for the development of craft specialization and demonstrate the rise of leisure time in the first century ad.

Questo articolo esamina i piccoli oggetti di vetro spesso chiamati ‘pedine’, ritrovamenti comuni a Pompei e che generalmente si pensa che fossero usati in relazione all'attività ludica. Viene esaminato un insieme di più di 500 esemplari dalla Insula VI.1, datati su base stratigrafica, e il colore e la dimensione di questo gruppo vengono paragonati a quelli di un insieme di ‘pedine’ vitree risalenti al I sec. d.C., rinvenuti in tombe e di cui è certo l'utilizzo come parti di set da gioco. Il paragone mostra come la maggior parte delle ‘pedine’ da Pompei difficilmente sia stata utilizzata in relazione ad attività ludiche. Questa conclusione è supportata da un'analisi che tiene conto dei tipi di pedine che sarebbero stati necessari per giochi come il ludus latrunculorum e il ludus duodecim scriptorum. Si prendono quindi in considerazione altre possibili funzioni e si suggerisce come molte delle ‘pedine’ da Pompei fossero utilizzate per decorazioni d'interni. Nell'articolo viene inoltre evidenziato lo sviluppo di una produzione specialistica di ‘pedine’ utilizzabili nelle attività ludiche e si suggerisce come ciò abbia potuto avere implicazioni nello sviluppo della specializzazione delle tecniche artigianali e dimostra l'aumento della disponibilità di ‘tempo libero’ nel I sec. d.C.

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Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr H.E.M. Cool, Barbican Research Associates, 16 Lady Bay Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham, NG2 5BJ, United Kingdom. hilary@coolarchaeology.com
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