VIDEO – Mongolia – Ankle bone shooting

Last modified 10.12.2022 | Published 31.05.2011Mongolia, North, Central and East Asia, Videos

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This video shows a group of Mongolian men practising indoors for the national championship in ankle bone shooting.

According to Wikipedia Shagai refers to the astragalus of the ankle of a sheep or goat. People collect the bones and use them for traditional games and fortune-telling throughout Central Asia. They may be painted bright colours. Such bones have been in use throughout history, and might be the first forms of dice. In English language sources, shagai often refers to “ankle bones”, and playing with shagai sometimes bears the name of ankle bone shooting.

A large variety of traditional Mongolian games use the shagai pieces. Depending on the game, the practitioners may toss the anklebones like dice, flick them like marbles (like in this video), shot at with arrows, caught in the hands, or simply collected according to the roll of a die. In many games, the side on which a tossed piece lands (horse, sheep, camel, or goat) is significant.

First, watch this video about ankle bone shooting, then go on to read about the context of the visit.

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