Dice are the oldest gaming implements known to man. Their precise origins are unknown but they have a long and rich history none the less.
Sophocles (496 - 406 BC), the Greek poet and tragedian, claimed that dice were invented by the Greek, Palamedes, during the siege of Troy. Herodotus (b. 484 BC?), historian and acquaintance of Sophocles, said they were invented by the Lydians of Asia Minor. But dice date back further than this. Egyptian tombs, dated to 2000 BC, have been found containing dice and dice reputedly dated to 6000 BC have been uncovered in archaeological excavations. Dice were developed independently by many ancient cultures all over the world and did not simply originate and spread from any one place.
In ancient times the throw of a dice was not just considered to be luck, the outcome was believed to be controlled by the gods and casting dice was a way of dividing inheritances, choosing rulers and as a method of prediction. The Roman goddess, Fortuna, daughter of Zeus (known to gamblers as Lady Luck), was believed to determine the outcome of a throw.
Dominoes descended from dice in China and spread to the West during the 18th century while standard ordinary dice became the vital component of a vast array of commercial board games in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Traditionally, a die is seldom seen alone, and is rather one of a pair of identical dice that are sized to be comfortably rolled or thrown, together, from a user's hand. A traditional die is a cube (often with corners slightly rounded), marked on each of its six faces with a different number of circular patches or pits called pips. All of these pips have the same appearance within a pair, or larger set of dice, and are sized for ease of recognizing the pattern the pips on one face form. The design as a whole is aimed at each die providing one randomly determined integer, in the range from one to six, with each of those values being equally likely.
Over the years dice have been made with many different materials. Ivory and bone were especially popular with early dice makers. Dice have been made of animal horns, clay, animal teeth, seeds, and nut shells. Others were made of bronze, agate, onyx, jet, alabaster, marble, rock crystal, and amber. More expensive dice were made of precious stones, gold, silver, ivory, and even porcelain.
A word of caution if you are buying ivory dice. There is Elephant Ivory, Mammoth Ivory, Hippo Ivory and Walrus Ivory. There is one other type of Ivory, it's called Vegetable Ivory, which is nothing more then a "nut" that comes from a tree found in the South American Rain Forest. Sellers will try to pass "Vegetable Ivory" Dice as "Animal Ivory" Dice so be careful.
If you would like information about identifying "Animal Ivory" check out my guide at eBay titled, " So, is it Ivory?