download PDF


In 2014, a bone tessera was found during the excavations conducted by the Phanagorian Mission of the Institute of Archaeology, RAS, at Phanagoria (the site of “Lower City”). It bears Greek and Latin numerals XV and IE situated on its reverse side and the relief depiction of a left hand with fi ngers combination, occupying its obverse. This tessera is of a type of playing draughts, which is called Le comput digital, bearing combinations of fi ngers of a left hand marking out numbers from 1 to 15, situated on the obverse and corresponding to the numerals on its reverse.

This tessera is a fi rst draught of Le comput digital type found in the North Pontic Region. It combines some unique features. Firstly, it is the fi rst known tessera combining both Greek and Roman graffi ti, while all the previously found specimens had only Roman graffi to situated at the reverse. Secondly, the only tessera of Le comput digital type was previously found, showing a sign XV. It differs from all other tesserae because it bears a bust of a man with his hand showing number fi fteen instead of just common hand. The Phanagorian tessera is the fi rst specimen showing a palm with combination of fi ngers marking out the number 15.


Bosporan Kingdom, North Pontic Region, Roman Empire, Phanagoria, tessera

Sergey N. Ostapenko

Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Alföldi-Rosenbaum, E. 1971: The Finger Calculus in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages Studies on Roman Game Counters I. Frühmittelalterliche Studien 5, 1–9.

Alföldi-Rosenbaum, E. 1976: Alexandriaca. Studies on Roman Game Counters III. Chiron 6, 205–239.

Alföldy-Rosenbaum, E. 1980: Ruler Portraits on Roman Game Counters from Alexandria. In: Eikones: Studien zum griechischen und römischen Bildnis (Beiheft zur Halbjahresschrift Antike Kunst 12). Bern, 29–39.

Alföldy-Rosenbaum, E. 1984: Characters and Caricatures on Game Counters from Alexandria (Studies on Roman Game Counters. 5). Alessandria e il mondo ellenistico-romano. Studi in onore di Achille Adriani I. Roma, 378–390.

Beda Venerabilis 1843: The Complete Works of Venerable Bede. Vol. I–VIII. London.

Bianchi, С. 2015: ‘Pedine alessandrine’: testimoni illustri di un gioco ignoto. In: I materiali della Collezione Archeologica “Giulio Sambon” di Milano. 1. Tra alea e agòn: giochi di abilità e di azzardo. Firenze, 53–65.

Blavatskaya, T.V. 1959: Igral’nye kosti iz Pantikapeya. Listy fi lologické. Folia philologica 8 (Eunomia. Suppl. III. 2), 68–80.

Fröhner, W. 1884: Le Comput digital. In: Annuaire de la Société de numismatique 8, 232–238.

Germann, N. 2006: De temporum ratione: Quadrivium und Gotteserkenntnis am Beispiel Abbos von Fleury und Hermanns von Reichenau (Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters. 89). Leiden–Boston.

Kostromichev, D.A. 2012: Tessera iz portovogo rayona Hrersonesa. BCH 13, 213–218.

Kuznetsov, V.D. 2014: Otchyet o rabote Fanagoriyskoy ekspeditsii Instituta arhreologii RAN v Fanagorii v 2014 g. Arhriv IA RAN. № 45554.

Kuznetsov, V., Zavoikin, A. 2014: On the archaeological topography of Phanagoria. In: Phanagoreia und darüber hinaus… Festschrift für Vladimir Kuznetsov (Altertümer Phanagoreias. Bd 3). Göttinen, 29–52.

Minaud, G. 2006: Des doigts pour le dire. Le comput digital et ses symboles dans l’iconographie romaine. Histoire and Mesure XXI/1, 3–34.

Peters, B.G. 1986: Kostoreznoe delo v antichnyhr gosudarstvahr Severnogo Prichernomor’ya. Moscow.

Plantzos, D. 2002: A Royal Seal of Antiochos IV of Syria and Some Contemporary Minima Ptolemaica. Revue belge de numismatique et de sigillographie CXLVIII, 33–39.

Rostovtsev, M.I. 1904: Drevnie kostyanye shashki s yuga Rossii. IAK 10, 109–124.

Turner, J.H. 1951: Roman Elementary Mathematics: The Operations. The Classical Journal 47 (2), 63–74; 106–108.

Vinokurov, N.I., Treister, M.Yu. 2015: Tessera iz sloya gibeli ranney tsitadeli gorodishcha Artezian. Vestnik drevney istorii 4, 227–239.

Wallis, F. 2004: Bede: The reckoning of time (Translated texts for historians. 29). Liverpool.

Williams, B.P., Williams, R.S. 1995: Finger Number in the Greco-Roman World and the Early Middle Ages. Isis 86, 587–608.