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Historical Puzzles

Many of our wooden puzzles and family board games have a long tradition. We like to call these our "historical wooden puzzles". We get a great feeling knowing that we are helping to continue the historical tradition of certain games that were played so long ago. When you open up one of our wonderful wooden puzzles or try to solve a 3D wooden puzzle, you can experience what so many members of mankind experienced before you. Some of these games were played by both kings and merchants alike. It was these ancestors of ours that gave us the magical fables and stories that accompany them. However, not all of our puzzles go back to ancient times. Some of these puzzles are the creative work of mathematical geniuses and other scientists alike. Take a look below to explore some of these nifty historical wooden puzzles.


The Wooden Soma Cube

The Wooden Soma Cube is one of the more popular and well known puzzles out there. This 3D wooden puzzle was created in 1936 by a man named Piet Hein. Ironically he created this puzzle while listening to a lecture on quantum mechanics by Werner Heisenberg who is considered one of the founders of this type of science. While the lecture was going on, Piet Hein sketched out on paper 27 cubes which could then be manipulated. When he finished this sketch, he cut them out and glued them into 7 different pieces. This 3D wooden puzzle is considered the 3D version of polyominos which is another mathematical puzzle sold on our website.

He called this 3D wooden puzzle the Soma Cube and as they say "it was all history from there". Piet Hein and his colleagues began manipulating this wooden puzzle (before it was considered a 3D puzzle) but because it turned out to be so fun and addicting, he officially made it into a wooden brain teaser game. To see this puzzle just the image below. 

The Wooden Burr Puzzle

The Wooden Burr Puzzle is another great historical 3D puzzle. The history of many of these puzzles is hard to track. The first known reference to the Burr Puzzle was in 1803 where it was shown in a toy catalog. Many of these puzzles back then were called "Chinese" or "Oriental" puzzles due to where they were most likely produced.

However, it wasn't until 1928 that the Burr Puzzle became famous where it was featured in a book by a man named Edwin Wyatt. This famous book is called "Puzzles in Wood". Mr. Wyatt named this puzzle Burr after the Burr seed which he felt the puzzle looked like. 

An interesting fact is that the earliest patent for a Burr Puzzle in the United States was in 1917!

The wooden 3D burr puzzle regained some of its fame lost over the years, when in 1978 a man named Bill Cutler researched all the possibilities of solutions that the puzzle holds based on how many pieces involved. While the six piece version is the most famous, he showed that it could be solved all the way up to 369 pieces in 119, 979 ways. Since then, scientists such as Bill Cutler have been getting together to research and study this wonderful puzzle...and of course have fun along the way. To take part in the fun, we mean research click the product image.

The Wooden Towers of Hanoi

This wooden puzzle may be named after a city in Vietnam but it was actually invented in France by a mathematician named Edouard Lucas in 1883. Lucas became for his study of the Fibonacci sequence and even got an equation named after himself named the Lucas Sequence.

The originally name of this wooden puzzle was "Tower of Hanoi" without the s at the end due to the puzzle originally starting off with just one 'tower', however it gradually became more commonly known as "towers". Some say that the plural most likely came after the famous legend that followed the creation of the puzzle. Legend has it, that somewhere hidden in Vietnam lives a group of Eastern monks. The legend has it that they have to complete the 'real' towers game by moving fragile disks from one tower to the other. Instead of our 9 disk wooden Towers of Hanoi, they have to complete the game with 64 disks. However, the legend goes that once they complete this puzzle, the world will come to an end. If your worried about Armageddon, you may want to calculate how many years this will take so you can prepare for the end. 

Don't worry though, Monkey Pod Games wont challenge you with a 64 disc wooden puzzle Towers of Hanoi, but if you want to have a go at the 9 disc version, click the image below. Our wooden puzzle Towers of Hanoi also makes great math aids and we work closely with teachers to help them use it in their classrooms. If you are an educator feel free to contact us for more information.


The Wooden Tangram Puzzle

The Wooden Tangram Puzzle is one of the oldest puzzles around. It is possible that the puzzle has been around thousands of years even if it's earliest known date is 1813. The puzzle supposedly originates in China and most likely was played for thousands of years. However, one reason why it might not have been recorded was due to the fact that in its early days it was considered a "woman's and child's game" and therefore was never recorded. After many years it gained popularity and that is when it first became famous. The name Tangram probably comes from the English word tamgram which means trinket however there is a speculation it could have come from the Tanka, a Chinese river people who sold opium to the West and probably played this game with their business partners. The game truly got its popularity when trade opened up with China and Chinese goods and customs made its way over to Europe. 

A real popularity boost came when in 1903, a man named Sam Lloyd wrote a funny spoof of the Tangram puzzle called the 'Eighth Book of Tan' where he made up a story how the puzzle was made by a god called Tan, over four thousand years ago. Mr. Lloyd managed to convince many people about this and it made him a lot of money even though everyone caught on later that it was a joke.

It was not until 1942 that it was discovered that there was a finite number of patterns that could be made with a tangram. This term was coined a "convex".


Mancala, is a wooden game that has an amazingly rich history. Historians have traced back its earliest origins to Ethiopia where they found early versions of the game which were in pottery form. The game was found in broken pieces but that is probably because it dates back to the 6th or 7th century AD!  Mancala is a great example of the diversity that exists in Africa, its homeland. Mancala for thousands of years has been played all over Africa by all kinds of people: the wealthy, the merchants, the warriors, and adults and children alike. This game has been use for fun but also for rights of passages or the many ceremonies used in beautiful African culture! Some believe it is possibly the oldest game in the world due to its resemblance to agricultural activity. However, there is not enough historical evidence to prove this even though others say the earliest remains of the game were found in the Sahara around 3000 BC!

Mancala Game

Mancala's popularity in Africa was spread by merchants to Europe where it's first recorded use was in the 17th century in England. While it never had huge popularity in Europe, today it has a large following in the United States. What is so great about many of the games on Monkey Pod Games is that they represent the bonds shared by all humans despite their cultural and geographical differences and Mancala is no different.

The word Mancala is Arabic for "transfer" which is the essence of the game: moving players from one hole to the other. However, the name of this worldwide game varies depending on each culture and geographic location. When one plays the game and moves their seeds from one hole to the other, this is called the act of "sowing". This is why we compare this game to agricultural activity. By playing this game, you can play the same game, people played thousands of years ago in Africa and all over the world.  

While simple to play this game is highly complex in terms of strategy and what psychologically drives us to make certain decisions. This game which was once used by simple agricultural farmers is now used to explain and understand game theory!

Try out this game and be apart of the rich history of Mancala! By being apart of this experience, we are continuing a beautiful tradition that is apart of the human story.



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