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Author Topic: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?  (Read 1245 times)

ta0

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Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« on: April 19, 2020, 05:45:52 PM »

This was uploaded to Wikipedia last year under Dreidel:



The letter is signed by Wilfred G. Lambert a British historian and archaeologist (1926-2011). As you can read, the red stone artifact is from Syria and he estimates it from 2,000 to 1,500 BC ("but difficult to date") or 4,000 to 3,500 years old! :o It has the numbers from 1 to 4. I'm not sure the language, but several ancient scripts used simple vertical lines for the first numbers, including Egyptian. We know there were whip tops in Egypt at that time.

Here is a video, by the same person who uploaded the pictures:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Bh8dNPHGbM

In the letter Lambert describes it as a "vessel" with a "small round hole in top, descending half-way toward the base".  It's difficult for me to believe that this could have been used as a vessel. I'm pretty sure it's a spinning dice, a forerunner of the Roman teetotums and the Jewish dreidels. But the hole makes me think that this would have been spun the way Spinningray proposed for much larger vessels also from Syria but 2,500 years later: Sphero-Conical Vessels. A stick would have been put in the hole and a string wrapped around the neck.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2020, 05:50:54 PM by ta0 »
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Ezra

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Re: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2021, 08:12:10 AM »

grate!!! this can give us an idea maybe the binging of the teetotum
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the Earl of Whirl

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Re: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2021, 08:48:11 AM »

Looks like I missed this earlier.  That is quite a find!!!
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ortwin

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Re: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2021, 08:57:36 AM »

Looks like I missed this earlier.  That is quite a find!!!
Same here!
 But ta0, why do you not mention the obvious? That hole could be simply used to stick a toothpick like stem as a starter into the stone.
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ta0

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Re: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2021, 09:49:32 AM »

But ta0, why do you not mention the obvious? That hole could be simply used to stick a toothpick like stem as a starter into the stone.
Because if you are going to put a permanent stem, it would have been logical to sculpt it on the stone and not put a wooden stem on it. At least, that's my thinking.
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Jeremy McCreary

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Re: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2021, 01:35:30 PM »

But ta0, why do you not mention the obvious? That hole could be simply used to stick a toothpick like stem as a starter into the stone.
Because if you are going to put a permanent stem, it would have been logical to sculpt it on the stone and not put a wooden stem on it. At least, that's my thinking.

Respectfully disagree. For starters, a thin stone stem would be subject to breakage during both carving and play.

An easily replaced lightweight wooden stem might also improve release speed via better grip. And it would surely reduce critical speed -- which the makers might have had some inkling of from experience alone. Simonelli tops take full advantage of these things.

However, the last thing you want in a gambling top is long spin time, as it slows the pace of the game. Learned that the hard way by making my own gambling tops and some games to go with them.

So maybe these teetotums didn't need stems to begin with.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2021, 01:41:49 PM by Jeremy McCreary »
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ortwin

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Re: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2021, 02:17:06 PM »

...
Because if you are going to put a permanent stem, it would have been logical to sculpt it on the stone and not put a wooden stem on it. At least, that's my thinking.
This one we discussed earlier clearly had the hole for some stick -if it was ever used as a top.
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ta0

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Re: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2021, 02:48:59 PM »

In the case of the disk top (if it was one) it makes sense to have a separate shaft.
In the case of the dice top, if you want to spin it with the fingers you just make a bulb on the crown, no need for a thin stem. As Jeremy said, you generally don't want long spin times.
This last argument also goes against the stick and string idea, although probably it wouldn't spin very long even if started fast. Anyway, I would also be highly skeptical of this possibility.

Lambert's description says stone. If it was a hardened ceramic, the hole could have been a manufacturing aid. But if it's made of stone, somebody worked hard to make a perfect round hole on the crown.
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Jeremy McCreary

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Re: Oldest dice top / teetotum / dreidel?
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2021, 03:25:02 PM »

Lambert's description says stone. If it was a hardened ceramic, the hole could have been a manufacturing aid. But if it's made of stone, somebody worked hard to make a perfect round hole on the crown.

Maybe you just solved the puzzle. Even in the stone case, you'd need a secure way to hold such a small piece in a particular orientation as it was shaped, whether by carving, grinding, or both.

As for the drilling effort, never underestimate what you can accomplish with an unlimited supply of slaves.
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