– It seems some things never change. Nine Man Morris is an ancient Roman board game that was popular in the past and people still play it today.
Excavating at the Montfort Castle in the Galilee, Israel archaeologist have discovered several intriguing artifacts that shed light on the lives of the Crusaders what kind of life Montfort Castle had to offer.
Located about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of the city of Haifa, and 10 miles (16 km) south of the border with Lebanon we find the ruins of a 13th century Crusader fortress – the Monfort Castle.
Today, the site is a national park, but during the times of the Kingdom of Jerusalem that lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 it was first used as a farm before becoming a fortified building.
An archaeological team headed by University of Haifa’s Prof. Adrian J. Boas has found a number of intriguing artifacts and scientists can slowly reconstruct the history of what life was like inside the Monfort Castle about 800 years ago.
The massive Monfort Castle was built by German Crusaders and now archaeological discoveries have revealed ancient monks lived here very comfortably. Montfort was the principal castle of the military Teutonic Order, a Catholic religious order founded as a military order in the 12th century. The order was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals.
The Teutonic knights lived communally, sleeping in dormitories on simple beds, eating together in a refectory.
In June 1271, Muslims tried to siege the castle. The Crusaders managed to defend Monfort Castle for 15 days before they were forced to surrender it and the mighty castle fell into the hands of the Mamluks (lit. slaves), a military class which ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1517 and Syria (including Palestine ) from 1260 to 1516.
“In 1271, Crusader rule over the Holy Land was drawing to an end. Much of the coast had been taken by Sultan Baibars, and the Crusaders no longer controlled most of the interior. Montfort was increasingly becoming an isolated island in Muslim territory,” says Boas and adds, “There was not really any point for the Teutonic garrison to remain, since there seem to have been no prospect of anyone coming to save them.” The Crusades were, by then, past their peak.
A number of arrowheads have been unearthed along with fragments of chain mail, scale armor, as well as 13th-century coins, a large quantity of glass vessels, and iron slag from a forge.
As many ancient castles, Monfort Castle was quite isolated, even for an ancient castle. Archaeologists have found an ancient game board known as Nine Man’s Morris, a strategy board game for two players dating at least to the Roman Empire.
The board is a grid. Players try to get rid of other players’ pieces, and the game ends when one player only has a few pieces left. The game is sometimes printed on the back of regular checkers boards.
In modern times, Nine Man Morris is known under variety of names such as The Mill Game, Merels, Ninepenny Marl and Cowboy Checkers.