Lewis Chessmen

A hoard of chesspieces was discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of northwest Scotland. The pieces were carved from walrus tusks and resemble other medieval chessmen of Scandanavian origins. Scholars speculate on the origins of the chessmen and make conclusions about economic and cultural ties among the different peoples of northern Europe during the time the chessmen were crafted and eventually buried. The significance of the chessmen for the history of other hoards in the area has not been explored. For further information see Neil Stratford, The Lewis Chessmen and the Enigma of the Hoard (British Museum Press, 1997) and the bibliography on pp. 60-62.

Some of the pieces found in other chess sets from this period feature religious iconography and relate to significant royal relics.

 

Left: Queen and Bishop pieces from the Lewis Chessmen as exhibited at the Museum of Scotland.
  Right: Faces of a King and Queen piece from the Lewis Chessmen exhibited at the Museum of Scotland

 

Pitt Rivers