The Senet Game of Imenmes

Imenmes was an ancient Egyptian official, who was ‘Overseer of the Cattle of Amun’. From the New Kingdom onward, the track for the game of Senet was usually engraved on the surface of a wooden box featuring a drawer for the playing pieces, while in previous periods the game seems to have been an integral part of a low table.

Funerary scenes show the tomb owner seated at a tall pedestal table on which the game box is placed. On the underside of this particular box (as of many others) is a grid for the game of “Twenty Squares” which had recently been imported from the Near East.

The Senet Game of Imenmes
The Senet Game of Imenmes

From the late 18th Dynasty onward, the inscriptions on game boards became more diverse and included more complex symbols. Some Senet boards had inscriptions in each of the 30 squares. Scenes of games painted in tombs show the tomb owner facing an invisible opponent: the deceased’s fate depended on the outcome of the game. This very scene is commented in Chapter 1 of the Book of the Dead.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, ca. 1300 BC. Now in the Louvre. E 2710