Unit 4: Reading Connection

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Chess Anyone?

Ancient Roman families couldn't play modern board games for fun. But one Roman family played chess, according to scientists.

Archaeologists say they have dug up what they believe is the world's oldest chess piece. Scientists found the piece in an old Roman palace in Albania, a country in eastern Europe. The Romans built the palace in 465 c.e.

Scientists say the game piece, which is carved from ivory, pushes back the age when chess was played in Europe by at least 500 years.

“This was a most significant find that may well affect our understanding of the history of chess,” said John Mitchell, one of the scientists who participated in the excavation of the palace.

Historians do not agree how old the game of chess is or who invented the game. Until the most recent discovery, most believe chess began in India around 600 c.e.. By 1000, the game had spread through the Middle East and Europe. The ivory chess piece is older than all previously found evidence of the game in Europe, Mitchell said.

He also said people played the game in India earlier than originally thought, around the third century b.c.e.

But some historians aren't so sure. “Every time someone finds a carved piece doesn't mean it's authentic,” said one chess historian.

Until more evidence is found, scientists may have to call the debate a draw.

Word Wise

ivory:
The yellowish-white substance that forms the tusks of animals such as elephants or walruses.

significant:
Having importance, notable: The year 1776 is significant in American history.

excavate:
To uncover by digging: They excavated the ruins of the old city.

previous:
Existing or taking place earlier: We read about mammals in the previous chapter.

authentic:
Being the real thing, genuine: This is an authentic dinosaur bone.

draw:
A contest that ends in a tie: The tic-tac-toe contest ended as a draw.

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Activity

Word Wise Quiz
Choose the correct word to complete each sentence.

Data Hunt

Using the information from the article, create a timeline of chess events. Use all of the dates mentioned in the article in your timeline, and label them. Remember that years labeled c.e. (Common Era) are positive numbers, and years labeled b.c.e. (Before Common Era) are negative. Research the dates of other important chess events, either online or in an encyclopedia. Add these dates to your timeline.