Domino pieces were historically carved from ivory or animal bone with small, round pips of inset ebony. The game's name comes from the pieces' resemblance to Venetian Carnival masks known as domini, which were white with black spots. These masks were so named because they resembled the winter hoods worn by the French priests, which were black on the outside and white on the inside. Yet, the name ultimately derives from the Latin word dominus, meaning "lord" or "master."
Modern dominoes, as most of the Western world knows them, appear to have been a Chinese invention. They apparently derived from cubic dice, which had been introduced into China from India some time in the distant past. In the early 18th century, dominoes made their way to Europe, with their first appearance in Italy. The game changed somewhat in the translation from Chinese to the European culture. The European version likely spread to America shortly thereafter where the game was played in homes, taverns and inns, and also aboard ships where passengers and crew could while away idle hours at sea.
The 115 domino pieces recovered from the Republic wreck site have undergone some deterioration during their century-long stint in the corrosive seawater. They appear to have been made from ivory or bone and wood, and had very possibly been stored in a rectangular wooden box with a sliding lid, its remains long lost in the Atlantic's Gulf Stream.