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around 2500–2300 BCE

Burnt City Dice

Ancient elongated dice from Shahr-e Sukhteh

Shahr-e Sukhteh (meaning "The Burnt City") is an archaeological site in eastern Iran corresponding to a Bronze Age urban settlement. Shahr-e Sukhteh was one of the world's largest early cities. It appeared around 3200 BCE and burned down three times before finally being abandoned in 1800 BCE.

Burnt City Dice

These ancient dice are among the world's oldest known and were excavated from Shahr-e Sukhteh together with a wooden backgammon-like gaming board. Four wooden dice and other pieces were found in grave 731. The dice are parallelepipeds and display numeration from 1 to 4 along the long faces following a variable order. They are estimated to have been crafted around 2500–2300 BCE.

Artifact dimensions

Approx. 1 cm × 1 cm × 3 cm

Original artifact location

Shahr-e Sukhteh (historical name), Sistan and Baluchestan, Iran (current name)

Current artifact location

National Museum of Iran, Tehran


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Interactive Content

Computational Explanation

Other Resources

Additional Reading

  • Moqaddam, A. "Ancient Geometry: Writing Systems, Art, Mathematics." Undated manuscript.
  • Naser Moghadasi, A. "The Burnt City and the Evolution of the Concept of 'Probability' In the Human Brain." Iran J. Public Health, Vol. 44, pp. 1306–1307, 2015. [contains fabricated image incorrectly stated to show the Shahr-e Sukhteh dice]
  • Pickover, C. The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics. New York: Sterling, p. 30, 2012.
  • Piperno, M. and Salvatori, S. "Recent Results and New Perspectives from the Research at the Graveyard of Shahr-i Sokhta, Sistan, Iran." Annali Istituto Universitario Orientale, Vol. 43, pp. 174–191, 1983.
  • Salvatori, S. and Tosi, M. "Shahr-i Sokhta Revised Sequence." In South Asian Archaeology, Vol. 1 (Ed. C. Jarrige and V. Lefèvre). Paris: ERC, pp. 281–292, 2001.