Hand Games

Iíll bet you know how to play "Rock-Paper-Scissors". Did you know that it is actually a very old game? if you didnít, donít feel bad. I didnít know it either!

According to our source, this game was known to the Egyptians as "atep" and could be played several different ways. The first way is like the modern game. Two players face each other and at a signal, both make a sign. We donít know what the signs were, but the ones from "Rock-Paper-Scissors" will do. The person making the highest ranking sign wins. (fig. 1)

fig. 1 fig. 2

A second way is for one player to make the sign behind his hand (fig 2) and the other player must guess which sign it is.

A third way is for the two players to face away from each other. A third player must announce the winner based on their signs (fig 3).

fig. 3

The Greeks also played a similar game. Here they appear to have had a method of keeping score. Each player held one end of a stick which was probably numbered. If you won a game, you advanced your fingers on the stick one number. If you lost, you moved your fingers back one number. The lady on the right in figure 4 is winning, she has more of the stick than her partner. You can make a stick by making marks on a piece of dowel rod every 1 or 2 inches, or, if you just want to try the game out, use a yard stick--it is already numbered!

fig. 4

The Romans also played this game. It was called "mora", "micatio" or "micare". They often said of a man who was really honorable, that you could play "moraí with him in the dark. They meant he wouldnít cheat you, even if he had a chance.


Falkener, Edward Games Ancient and Oriental and How to Play Them. Dover, 1961 (originally published in 1892).

Next Article | Back to Early Period #15 index
Back to Early Period Index | Back to PastTimes