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700-Year-Old Casino Found in Utah

The Great Saltlake in Utah

<![CDATA[An abundance of objects such as dice, sticks, and darts found in a cave near the Great Salt Lake in Utah have led researchers studying the site to suggest the culture that occupied the cave, the Promontory, regularly enjoyed a variety of betting games. The Promontories were a pre-Apachean people about whom not a lot is known. The lead scientist in the research, John Ives from the University of Alberta, told Discovery News that they most probably came south from the subarctic territories of Canada and thrived in Utah in the second half of the thirteenth century, a time when other indigenous peoples in the region were having trouble simply surviving because of environmental and social factors. While their neighbours were struggling to survive, the Promontories had enough resources to live in relative comfort and entertain themselves with various games. One of these probably involved shooting darts through a hoop, another was a hand guessing game in which players had to guess what object another player held in his or her hand, and some were possibly board games in which dice were used. It seems most of the dice games, however, were played by the women in the tribe: most of the dice were found near the entrance of the cave, dubbed simply Cave 1, around a large hearth, where women likely gathered after their chores were done, Ives’ colleague Gabriel Yanicki related to Westerndigs. The stakes in these games tended to be small, including swapping chores and personal items. The dice were made of cane pieces, with burnt markings on their sides. The men of the tribe were less likely to take part in the dice games but they did bet on the outcome, Yanicki went on to say. At the same time, they partook in other leisure activities such as the dart-throwing game, where there were two participants who aimed to shoot their darts through a rolling hoop. In the men’s games, the researchers believe, the stake tended to be significantly higher. In fact, Yanicki suggests that these games were not played just for fun but may have replaced other, more hostile encounters between groups. This is likely to have strengthened the social ties between these neighbouring groups and hence their economic exchanges. The Promontory cave was discovered in the 1930s by University of Utah archaeologist Julian Steward. However, not much progress was made until recently as to understanding the real significance of the artefacts found in the cave. These include animal hides and bones, but also around 200 pairs of moccasins, a lot of them in children’s sizes. Analysis of the moccasins revealed that the style they were made in was typical of the people living in subarctic Canada, which led to the conclusion that the Promontory culture came from the north and settled in the southwest of North America. Native American cultures like the Apache and the Navajo may well have then sprung from the Promontory. The research team has speculated that the Promontories probably brought with them not just the moccasin style but their gambling habits as well, and these spread across the continent like the culture’s descendents. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user: NASA]]>

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