Lewis Chessmen, update on a famous treasure.



(Above image represents a capture of part of the collection held by the British Museum in London.)

This evening, I am providing an update on a famous-and unique-set of chessmen which were probably made in Norway in the late 13th century and which were found on a remote beach on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides before April 11th 1831 and thereafter found their way to the
British Museum in London.

Display of chess pieces at British Museum


Summary information as follows:
  • Collection comprises ninety-three pieces plus fourteen ‘tablemen’, gaming pieces and a buckle. Together with missing pieces the collection would have been enough to make four complete chess sets ( 4 X 32). It is possible this was the stock of a trader which had been hidden for security.
  • The pieces were elaborately carved from worked walrus ivory and whale teeth sometime between 1150 and 1200 AD in Trondheim, Norway. During this period the West of what is now Scotland was part of Norway.
  • Actual location of find is believed to Uig, a remote spot on the West Coast of the Isle of Lewis, close to Abhainn Dearg Distillery.
  • The chessmen point to strong trade links between Scandinavia and the British Isles at the time.
  • It is believed that chess originated in India around 500 BC and was adapted to reflect society in medieval Europe.
  • The British Museum in London acquired the pieces between November 1831 and January 1832. Of the the ninety-three pieces, eleven have been transferred to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and six are on loan to Museum nan Eilean, part of Lews Castle Museum and Archive, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
  • Experts believe there were five missing pieces, one of which a 'warder' (rook in modern parlance) was recently found at a private home in Edinburgh, Scotland and sold at auction for an incredible GBP735,000 (about USD920.000).
Display of chess pieces at British Museum

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