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Lewis Chessmen

chess set

The Lewis Chessmen are a group of 78 chess playing pieces, or "chessmen," discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis, one of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The pieces likely represent the oldest and most complete medieval chess sets yet discovered. While they may represent parts from as many as four different sets, it is not known whether any of them represents one true complete set. In fact, even though the pieces have been called one of the British Museum's top ten treasures as well as one of the "status symbols" depicted in BBC Radio's "Around the World in 100 Objects" in 2010, many scholars disagree on their true origins. They probably were carried by Vikings from Norway, towards a wealthy European port such as Dublin. But why they were buried in such relatively good condition and in such numbers is unknown. A few are housed in the Royal Museum in Edenburgh, Scotland, and the rest reside at the British Museum in London. While the originals are made of walrus tusk ivory and whale tooth, this reproduction from the 1960s is cast stone.

  • Material: cast | stone
  • Origin: Australia
  • Style: Medieval
  • Object ID: 113.4611
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