Although this jack is a 20th century toy, some version of the game may have been played in Virginia as early as the James Fort period. The game of jacks, also known as knucklebones, jackbones, fivestones, and by many other names, has been played worldwide since prehistoric times. In antiquity small animal bones were used in place of the small iron or plastic gaming pieces that most American children use today. However, the basic concept of the game was the same: a player picks up or catches as many bones or jacks as possible after tossing or bouncing a ball. Today, versions of the game are played around the world with different rules and using many different objects as jacks, including stones, bones, seeds, filled cloth bags, and small toys. Variations on the rules of the game also exist for different levels of difficulty and lengths of the game.
It is unclear when the six pronged shape of Jacks came about, but curators at Jamestown couldn’t help but notice the jacks similarity to caltrops. Like today’s Legos, when toys like this aren’t cleaned up at the end of the day, the effect on a tired parents foot in the darkness of night would be similar to the effect of a caltrop! Ouch!