Senet Game Board of Tutankhamun

King Tutankhamun was buried with no fewer than five senet game boxes. Senet was an ancient Egyptian board game popular with all classes.

Archaeological evidence reveals that senet was played by both royalty (as demonstrated by this elaborate ivory set) and commoners (crude boards scratched in rock). The course of the game was thought to parallel the course of the deceased through the underworld.

Senet Game of King Tutankhamun
Senet Game of King Tutankhamun

The senet game much appreciated by the ancient Egyptians, whose rules are not yet very clear, but it could compare it to the “game of the Goose”. The word senet means “pass” and would reflect the progress of the game.

The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife, which means an existence after death. To reach the afterlife, a person who died had to perform certain rituals and pass many obstacles. In the New Kingdom, the game senet, which means “passing,” became associated with the journey to the afterlife.

Some of the squares of the game corresponded to the hazards a person might meet on their journey to the afterlife, while other squares helped the players. Because of this connection, senet was not just a game; it was also a symbol for the struggle to obtain immortality, or endless life.

From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 62061