Purple Swamphen, Porphyrio porphyrio, also known as Sultana Bird, is a rare bird breading in Menorca in the last years with its large feet, bright plumage and red bill and frontal shield is easily recognisable in its native range.
Photographer: Barbara Salva.
Romans kept purple swamphens as decorative birds at large villas and
expensive houses. They were regarded as noble birds and were among the
few birds that Romans did not eat. A purple swamphen is depicted at the
bottom of the famous garden fresco from Pompeii.
Plinii the Elder already (AD 23 – AD 79), mentioned in his work Naturalis Historia that either Majorca and Menorca provided the Romans with those birds.
Alquerque is known to date back at least as far as 1400BC, since boards have been found cut into the roofing slabs of the temple at Kurna in Egypt. A game called Quirkat is mentioned in an Arabic work of the 10th Century AD.
The earliest set of rules is found in the 'Libro de Acedrex, Dados e Tablas', a magnificently illuminated manuscript compiled between 1251 and 1282 by order of the King of Leon and Castile, Alfonso X. The game's Spanish name, derived from 'El quirkat', was alquerque.
This stone carved alquerque board is located in Toraixer prehistoric site, in Es Castell.