Yamato Block Puzzle Once Owned by Olive C. Hazlett

Yamato Block Puzzle Once Owned by Olive C. Hazlett

Usage conditions apply
This Japanese puzzle consists of six differently notched wooden rods that fit together to form the symmetrical object illustrated on the front of the cardboard box. The idea of wooden interlocking puzzles may have come from carpenters who made ancient wooden shrines in Japan. These shrines would not be able to withstand earthquakes with nails and glue, so wood with interlocking joints was used in place of other materials.
International interest in these puzzles began when Japan reopened to the west after being closed from the mid-seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century.
The box also holds a sheet of instructions.
This copy of the puzzle belonged to the mathematician Olive C. Hazlett. A mark on the lid reads: THE (/) YAMATO (/) BLOCK PUZZLE. Another mark there reads: MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN. After the Japanese surrender at the close of World War II, Allied forces occupied the country until the spring of 1952.
Compare MA.335284.
Jerry Slocum and Rik van Grol, “Early Japanese Export Puzzles: 1860s to 1969s”, Puzzlers’ Tribute A Feast for the Mind, eds. David Wolfe and Tom Rodgers, Natick, Massachusetts: A K Peters, 2002, pp. 257-272.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1950
place made
Physical Description
wood (pieces material)
paper (box, instruction material)
overall: 1 cm x 7 cm x 6.8 cm; 13/32 in x 2 3/4 in x 2 11/16 in
ID Number
nonaccession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Hermitage of St. Joseph
Mathematical Recreations
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Women Mathematicians
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object