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The Game of Twenty Squares
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

In 1926, a British archaeologist named Leonard Woolley made an interesting discovery. Woolley was digging among the ruins of the ancient city of Ur. He uncovered the edge of a small piece of wood. It was decorated with pieces of a beautiful blue stone called lapis lazuli, as well as shell and red limestone. At first, Woolley was unsure of what he had found. But as he began to slowly and carefully dig it out, he realized that he had discovered an ancient board game!

Woolley’s discovery is called the “Game of Twenty Squares.” It is a game that was played over 4,500 years ago, which makes it one of the earliest board games ever discovered. In addition to the board, Woolley also found two sets of dice and three pyramid-shaped playing pieces.

Experts thought that the object of the game was to race the other player to the opposite side of the board. However, it was impossible for them to figure out exactly how to play the game because no document explaining the rules had been found. It was impossible, that is, until a historian named Irving Finkel made another discovery.

Finkel works for the British Museum. He translates ancient writing set down on clay tablets. One day, Finkel discovered that one of the museum’s clay tablets contained the rules for a board game. He had found the rulebook for the Game of Twenty Squares! These two discoveries, separated by nearly one hundred years, have finally made it possible us to play this ancient game.


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