An ancient D20 die beats the Dungeons & Dragons dice to the punch by 2000 years.
Reverend Chauncey Murch must have rolled a crit when he acquired the ancient D20 die between 1883 and 1906 while conducting missionary work in Egypt.
Apparently, way before Gary Gygax and Dungeons & Dragons people in ancient Egypt were casting icosahedra. The ancient D20 die pictured above is a twenty-faced die dating from somewhere between 304 and 30 B.C., a time span also known as Egypt’s Ptolemaic Period.
The ancient D20 die from Egypt is made from serpentine and amazingly still has all the numerals visible, like eta, thta, and epsilon. The ancient D20 die is a little over an inch tall. The symbols carved into the D20 die appear to be of Greek origin, in keeping with it coming from the Ptolemaic Period.
The previous record holder for the world’s most ancient D20 die similar to Dungeons & Dragons was a Roman glass die from around the 2nd century AD. It is described as “Deep blue-green in color, the large twenty-sided die incised with a distinct symbol on each of its faces.”
No one knows for certain what types of games these ancient D20 die were used for. Although it’s possible they were used for religious purposes, as well.
The ancient D20 die is now being held by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.