Dominoes: An Intriguing Journey Through History (2024)


Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the fascinating history of dominoes. In this article, we delve into the origins, developments, and significant events that have shaped this beloved game over the centuries. Join us as we take a closer look at the intriguing journey of dominoes, from its ancient roots to its widespread popularity today.

  1. Ancient Egyptian Beginnings

The earliest traces of a game resembling dominoes can be found in ancient Egypt. Although distinct from modern dominoes, these early games laid the foundation for the development of this timeless pastime.

  1. Unrelated to Modern Dominoes

It is important to note that the game played by the Ancient Egyptians differs from the modern version of dominoes. Despite the similarities, these ancient games are considered distinct and separate.

  1. Found in King Tutankhamun's Tomb

An astonishing discovery was made in the tomb of King Tutankhamun – a set of dominoes dating back to approximately 1355 BC. This finding suggests that domino-like games were popular among the upper class and royalty during this era.

  1. Possible Babylonian Influence

The use of tiles with dots, akin to those used in modern dominoes, was prevalent in Babylonian culture. These tiles served as tools for record-keeping and accounting. Over time, they may have evolved into the domino tiles we know today.

  1. Birth of Dominoes in China

The true birthplace of dominoes is believed to be ancient China. As early as the 13th century, this captivating game gained popularity among statesmen and the upper class before spreading throughout Chinese society.

  1. Evolving Materials

In its early stages, dominoes were crafted from various materials such as wood, stone, and even animal bones, which may explain the slang term "bones" used to refer to domino pieces. Today, modern dominoes are predominantly made of heavy plastic.

  1. Unique Chinese Domino Sets

Chinese domino tiles were divided into two classes: Military and Civil. Interestingly, both classes of tiles were typically found within a single set. Furthermore, Chinese domino tiles are longer than their Western counterparts.

  1. Legends of Invention

Folk tales surrounding the invention of dominoes have become part of Chinese lore. Some claim that the game was invented by Hung Min, a folk hero from early Chinese history. Other stories credit the invention to Keung T'ai Kung and Fan Lai. The earliest records suggest that Emperor Hwui Tsung was introduced to the game in 1120 CE.

  1. Evolution from Dice Games

Dominoes evolved from much older games involving the use of two dice, with the dots on the dice adding up to 32. This explains why older Chinese domino sets consist of 32 pieces, while Western sets typically contain 28.

  1. Dominoes Reach Europe

During the 18th century, dominoes made their way to Europe, initially surfacing in Italy. The game gained popularity and quickly spread throughout mainland Europe. The first official record of the game appears in the Dictionnaire de Trévoux, though it is believed to have been played for several years prior under a different name.

  1. Dominoes in England

Dominoes arrived in England in the late 1700s, thanks to French prisoners of war. The game rapidly captivated the English population, spreading across the country during the 19th century.

  1. The Origins of the Name

The word "domino" originally referred to a hood worn by Christian priests in winter. The exact transition from the religious garment to the game's name remains uncertain, but this linguistic connection provides insight into the origin of the term.

  1. Merging of Cultures

Historians debate whether dominoes were introduced to Europe by Chinese traders or if they independently developed within the continent during the 18th century. Regardless, both the European and Chinese versions of dominoes share enough similarities to suggest a common origin.

  1. Marco Polo's Influence

During his travels, Marco Polo spent extensive time in China, immersing himself in the customs of the Chinese aristocracy. Some historians speculate that Polo may have brought the game back to Europe, as Italy was the first Western country to embrace dominoes.

  1. Dominoes Gain Popularity

Throughout the 19th century, dominoes became a popular game played among friends in coffee shops, evolving into a beloved pastime in pubs and bars, particularly in the United Kingdom.

  1. Dominoes Across Continents

Inuit peoples developed a game similar to dominoes, utilizing bone tiles. It is widely believed that this adaptation originated from European dominoes rather than being an independent invention.

  1. Dominoes in the New World

As America was a former British colony, the game of dominoes naturally made its way there following its popularity in Europe. To this day, dominoes remains a regularly played game in the United States.

  1. A Tile Found in the Mary Rose

An intriguing discovery was made amidst the wreckage of the Mary Rose – a single domino tile. While some speculate that the tile was planted there after the shipwreck, its presence hints at the game's popularity during the 16th century.

  1. Dominoes Conquer Latin America

Following the Spanish colonization of Latin America, dominoes became a cherished pastime in the region. It is even considered the national game in countries like Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

  1. Mexican Train Dominoes

Although originating in Cuba, Mexican Train Dominoes is the American iteration of a Chinese dominoes game called Pai Gow. Introduced to Cuba in the 1850s, it eventually found its way to the United States.

  1. Dominoes as a Gambling Game

Combining elements of both luck and skill, dominoes became a popular gambling game throughout the 20th century in the United States. It was commonly played in casinos and clandestine gambling establishments.


Dominoes, with its rich and intricate history, has stood the test of time. From its ancient Egyptian origins to its widespread popularity today, this game continues to captivate players of all ages. Whether enjoyed casually among friends or played competitively, dominoes remains a game that will undoubtedly endure for generations to come.

With this comprehensive guide, we hope to shed light on the captivating journey of dominoes, providing you with a deeper understanding of its historical significance. So, gather your friends, set up the tiles, and embark on your own dominoes adventure!

Dominoes: An Intriguing Journey Through History (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Edwin Metz

Last Updated:

Views: 5646

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Edwin Metz

Birthday: 1997-04-16

Address: 51593 Leanne Light, Kuphalmouth, DE 50012-5183

Phone: +639107620957

Job: Corporate Banking Technician

Hobby: Reading, scrapbook, role-playing games, Fishing, Fishing, Scuba diving, Beekeeping

Introduction: My name is Edwin Metz, I am a fair, energetic, helpful, brave, outstanding, nice, helpful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.