A Roman Ivory Theater Ticket or Gaming Piece
We are all aware of the early coins and currency of ancient Rome, but in an age when paper was yet to be invented, small discs such as this one could at times be theater tickets or pieces of a game. Around the start of the first millennium, ivory was not as rare as it is today, but it wasn’t plentiful either. A thoughtful citizen who knew the intrinsic value of ivory would have known to hold onto this disc for future use.
The markings on this piece could easily denote its value in an ancient game, much like our own poker chips. Similarly, the markings could denote attendance to some event, possibly in Rome’s great Colosseum itself. The accuracy to which the letter “A” was inscribed, is a testament as to the technical feats of Rome’s artisans who worked solely with their hands and simple, yet sometimes technologically advanced tools. The opposite side shows four vertical markings, possibly numerals, yet not in the common syntax of IV, but instead marked IIII. We might wonder more at the pocket in which this disc jangled, whether it was held in the hand of a wealthy gambler or a begging castaway, but its smooth surface and superior quality hint that it may have been lost and found in time, with little wear to the amber ivory since it was first carved sometime around 100 BC – 100 AD.