Sheep Knucklebone


The Romans would sometimes use the astragalus bone of a sheep, also known as the “knucklebone” on the end of a Flagrum. Due to their cube-like shape, these bones have had a number of historical uses. For scourging, the Roman soldiers would string them on the cords of a scourge and when chipped or sharpened, these bones would render terrible blows on a victim.

This is a real astragalus bone from a sheep. These bones are not sharp but are great visuals to pass around as you are showing a Roman flagrum or simply explaining the power of this weapon.

Learn more about the history of knucklebones below…

Color and shape may vary some. These bones are from modern sheep bones and are not archaeological finds.  


Knucklebones were also used throughout ancient history to play dice-like games and for gambling. Playing knucklebones was a common way in paintings and art of showing children at play in ancient times. These bones were also used for divination and have a strong cultural presence in the Greco-Roman world.

Concerning the use of these bones in Roman scourgings, Athenaeus of Naucratis (from the 2nd century) and Eustathius of Thessalonica (from the 12th century) give indications of scourges being made from astragalus bones. Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (2nd century) provides the best description of this astragalus scourge in his story, which is the only Roman novel in Latin to survive in its entirety. In this story the writer refers to this scourge as a tesseratum, meaning strung with “tesserae” or small cubes.