Mancala World

Warra → German.

First Description: Felix
von Luschan, 1919
Cycles: One (?)
Ranks: Two (?)
Sowing: Single laps (?)
Region: USA

Warra was mentioned by the Austrian anthropologist Felix von Luschan (1854-1924) in 1919 as a mancala game played in predominantly black states in the south of the USA. He saw the game several times at the Mississippi river in Louisiana and was told in New Orleans that it was brought under the same name by colored people even to San Francisco. No rules were recorded by him (the game could be a variant of Oware) and nobody appears to have researched the game in detail. It could be related to artifacts discovered by archaeologists at former plantations in Louisiana such as buttons which may have been used for playing this game at Evergreen Plantation, Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation, Orange Grove and Oakley plantations and pieces of glass and ceramic modified into gaming pieces that were found at numerous plantation sites in Virginia (Monticello, Pohoke, Poplar Forest, Portici, Wilton), the Robinson House and the Nash site in the Manassas National Battlefield Park near Washington, D.C. and in Maryland (Garrison Plantation). Archaeologists have also recovered molded pieces of glass used as pieces for mancala at New Philadelphia, a lost western Illinois town where blacks and whites lived together in peace and freedom a quarter century before the Civil War. Similar shaped and sanded fragments of 18th century English earthen wares are also known from African-American sites in Jamaica (Drax Hall) and Montserrat (Galways Plantation).

In 2009, Charles Goode and Jerome S. Handler published an alternative interpretation of these artifacts. They wrote that the pieces of glass and ceramic were just gizzard stones or gastroliths, which have been held inside the digestive tract of an animal for the purpose of food-grinding.


Armstrong, D. V. 
The Old Village and the Great House: An Archaeological Examination of Drax Hall Plantation, St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica. University of Illinois Press, Urbana IL (USA) 1990.
Dennis, J.
Lost Illinois Town Offers Lessons for Race Relations in America, Expert Says. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign IL (USA), May 1, 2008.
Goode, C.
Gizzard Stones or Game Pieces?. In: African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter 2009; 10 (March): 1-23.
Handler, J. S.
Gizzard Stones, Wari in the New World, and Slave Ships: Some Research Questions. In: African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter 2009; 10 (June): 1-11.
Klingelhofer, E. 
Aspects of Early Afro-American Material Culture: Artifacts from the Slave Quarters in Garrison Plantation, Maryland. In: Historical Archaeology 1987 21(2): 112-119.
Luschan, F. von 
Zusammenhänge und Konvergenz. In: Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien 1919; 48: 51-58.
Samford, P. 
Searching for West African Cultural Meanings in the Archaeological Record. In: African-American Archaeology: Newsletter of the African-American Archaeology Network. Winter 1994 (Number 12).
Samford, P. 
The Archaeology of African-American Slavery and Material Culture. In: William and Mary Quarterly 1996; 53 (1): 87-114.

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By: Ralf Gering.
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