Found on Lewis in 1831, the Lewis Chessmen are probably the most well-known archaeological find from Scotland.
Produced in the late 12th and early 13th century
1831 on a beach at Uig, Lewis, Scotland
Probably Trondheim, Norway
Kingdom of the Scots, Level 1, National Museum of Scotland
Did you know?
Up to four chessmen could be carved from one walrus tusk
The 93 gaming pieces known to us today include 78 chessmen, 14 tables-men and a buckle to secure a bag.
The chesspieces consist of elaborately worked walrus ivory and whales' teeth in the form of seated kings and queens, bishops, knights on their mounts, standing warders and pawns in the shape of obelisks.
The hoard is likely to be made up of four chess sets. Eleven of the chessmen are owned by National Museums Scotland and the remaining 82 reside at the British Museum.
Believed to be Scandinavian in origin, the chessmen were probably made in Trondheim in Norway during the late 12th and early 13th centuries. At that time, the area in which the chessmen were buried was part of the Kingdom of Norway, not Scotland. It is possible that the chessmen belonged to a merchant travelling from Norway to Ireland, and it seems likely that they were buried for safe keeping en route.
Photo © Mick Blunt https://www.flickr.com/photos/103098497@N06/
Although many questions remain unanswered, there continues to be fascination with this remarkable group of iconic objects, 180 years after their discovery on Lewis.
We're excited to have the opportunity to save a unique treasure hoard for the nation! Find out more here.