Knucklebones or jacks is a game that has a very ancient origin. Originally played with the knucklebones of sheep in farming towns, the “jacks” are now manufactured toys usually made of metal although sometimes made of plastic in modern times. The premise is simple, the winner is the person to pick up the most amount of the jacks while a ball is in the air. The game is played until all of the jacks are picked up by the players.
Knucklebones is likely a more primitive version of dice and can be traced back all the way to the Greeks and the Trojan War. One myth is that Zeus would play the game with Eros and other Gods. There is a painting from Pompeii that is currently in the Museum of Naples which depicts several goddesses and a few of them are playing the game. While the most common type of bone used for the game were sheep bones, some people also used goat or calf knuckles.
The game is still played all over the world because it is easy to make the materials needed. It is referred to by different names such as “gobs” in Ireland, “gonggi” in Korea, “taba game” in Portugese speaking countries and of course “jacks” in English speaking countries.
In the play Voiceless Melodies by Iftikar N. Hassan, the game is used as a method of distraction. Distraction from the world around the and the darkness that they encounter.