Knucklebones

drinkinggamesdice

Collection of Roman knucklebone playing pieces and two dice

In the scene I’m currently penning, a group of youths play knucklebones. This simple game, the origins of which may go back to ancient Egypt, involved pieces (tali) shaped like sheep or goat knucklebones. Sometimes, actual hock bones were used. For children, the goal of knucklebones was to toss five pieces in the air and catch as many as possible with the back of the hand. Women and men also played this popular game. It was a common pastime at taverns in the Roman world.

For much more about this Roman game, see:

http://archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu/the-collection/object-stories/archaeology-of-daily-life/childhood/knucklebones/

http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/showcase/boardgames6.html

“The game of knucklebones, also known as astragaloi in Greek and tali in Latin, could be played in several different ways. The simplest and perhaps most common form of this game, played by children, was comparable to the modern-day game of jackstones: all five small pieces were simultaneously tossed into the air, the goal being to catch as many as possible on the back of one hand. Another variation of the game involved players throwing one or more of the pieces into a small dirt hole in the ground or into the opening of a small vessel. He or she with the best aim would win.”

I’m a bit behind schedule due to other writing deadlines, but draft Chapter 9 should be ready soon! It’s the next to last (penultimate) free draft chapter of Games of Rome before the book is finished, edited, and published this summer. 😀

JPK

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