Stomachion

 

by Archimedes of Syracuse

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Stomachion is considered to be the world's oldest puzzle. The history of the puzzle is estimated to be 2200 years old, tracing its roots back to the Ancient Greece and the third century B.C. An ingenious inventor Archimedes of Syracuse (287 B.C. - 212 B.C.) is often credited with creating of the puzzle. Even one of the other names for the puzzle is "The Loculus of Archimedes." Unfortunately, today it is not known for sure if he invented the puzzle or just explored the geometrical aspects of it. The latter version is treated to be more probable. Though, who knows... In addition to this introductory paragraph on the puzzle's history, it should be mentioned that the puzzle was discovered accidentally, in 1846, but then again lay in obscurity for over a century.

The puzzle consists of 14 pieces of various polygonal shapes originally forming a square. The object of the puzzle is to rearrange the pieces to form interesting shapes. These can be shapes of people, animals, geometrical shapes, etc. A selection of such shapes is presented in the illustration below. Can you also create your own shapes?

There are many websites with much more detailed information on Stomachion, from its history through its geometrical aspects and beyond. If you want to learn more about this wonderful puzzle, we would like to recommend you to visit them. Our picks (in no particular order) are:

Kadon's page on Stomachion - a crown jewel in Kadon's Treasured Oldies collection.

Archimedes' Stomachion (Introduction) - general information about the puzzle.

A tour of Archimedes' stomachion by Fan Chung and Ron Graham - a guidance into many interesting properties of Somachion (14 pieces) and its modification STOMACH (11 pieces).

Stomachion - a good selection of the Stomachion shapes.

MathWorld's
Playing in the Sandreckoner's Box - some info about Archimedes and his geometry explorations, including the Stomachion as one of them. Also are featured the 536 possible distinct arrangements of the Stomachion's 14 pieces into the shape of a square, originally found by Bill Cutler in November 2003.
The shapes marked with asterisk were created by Peter Grabarchuk specially for Puzzles.COM.
Last Updated: March 5, 2006
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