Mancala and its many variations in known as the "National Game of Africa". Mancala is believed to have originated in either Ethiopia or Eritrea. Pottery fragments and rocks cut into mancala boards date back to the 6th and 7th centuries. Mancala boards have been found carved into Egyptian temples located at Memphis, Thebes, and Luxor.
Mancala boards are traditionally cut from stone, wood, or simply made from little holes dug into the earth. The stones can be actual stones or pebbles, beads, beans, seeds, or anything small enough to fit into one's hand and move from hole to hole quickly.
Mancala Board from the Gola People of Angola
Basic Rules for Mancala: (This is one variation, there are over 70 variations of mancala.)
Mancala is a "count and capture" game. These rules are for a 6 x 2 board with 2 stores. This is this board most commonly found in the U.S. Mancala is a two person game.
1. Your pits are the six smaller holes nearest to you.
2. Your store is the large hole on your right hand side.
3. Start by placing 3 stones into each of your pits. Your opponent will do the same.
4. A turn consists of taking all the stones from one of your pits and dropping them into each pit to the right of the beginning pit. You are working in a counter-clockwise fashion.
5. If the final stone on your turn lands in the store, you get another turn.
6. If the final stone lands in one of your empty pits, that stone and any stones in the pit directly across from your pit are place into your store.
7. If you drop a stone into your store during a turn and have other stones left, you continue dropping stones into your opponent's pits.
8. The game ends when a player's pits are emptied. The remaining stones of the other player are gathered up and placed into his or her store.
9. The winner is the person with the most stones in his or her store.
You can watch a mancala game using the rules above being played on YouTube.com
Other names for Mancala: Abangah, Awaoley, Aware, Awari, Awele, Ayo, Bantumi, Bao, Ba-awa, Choro, Congklak, Coro, Gabata, Gebet'a, Ingilith, Kapo, Kigogo, Madji, Mangola, Mankala, Mbau, Mulabalaba, Nsa Isong, Nsolo, Oware, Owari, Omweso, Poo, Sadeqa, Solo, Soro, Trysse, Walle, Wari, Warri, Ware, Wouri