Lewis Chessmen

Contributed by National Museums Scotland

Found on Lewis in 1831, they are probably the most well-known archaeological find from Scotland. The chess pieces 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. 11 of the chessmen are at the National Museums Scotland and the remaining 82 reside at the British Museum. They were probably made in Norway late 12th and early 13th centuries and where the chessmen were buried, was part of the Kingdom of Norway, not Scotland. It seems likely they were buried for safe keeping on route to be traded. Although many questions remain unanswered, there continues to be fascination with this remarkable group of iconic objects, 180 years after their discovery on Lewis.

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