The Lewis Chessmen

P1090676In 1831 a remarkable hoard of carved walrus ivory was discovered on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, Scotland. It included 78 chessmen reflecting medieval Europe.


Kings with swords on their laps, queens resting their chins in their hands, bishops dressed for Mass, knights on horseback and infantrymen (rooks) on foot. The rooks biting their shields depict fictional heroes of great ferocity known from Norse saga as Berserkers.  (Probably made in Scandinavia, thought to be Norway, about AD 1150-1200 | Found on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland)

Information from the British Museum

Wouldn’t you love to hold one of these pieces in your hand?

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

33 thoughts on “The Lewis Chessmen”

  1. Yes I would and how absolutely fascinating is this? Never heard of this incredible find…but I would love to play chess with these pieces. Guaranteed to win do you think? Thanks for this great piece of info Jude, loved it 🙂

    1. They are so tactile aren’t they? You just have to wonder about who carved them all those years ago and how they ended up being hidden on the Isle of Lewis.

  2. Such exquisite work, Jude. I never really thought of Walruses having ivory tusks.I suppose they were hunted for their meat and skin as well as the ivory. I would imagine that they are more protected nowadays.

    1. I’m sure the ivory was a by-product. As you say they would have hunted the walrus for food and clothing – not much else to eat in those Nordic lands then!

  3. These are exquisite, aren’t they, Jude? Yes, I certainly would!
    Didn’t I see 1 World, 2-3.00 somewhere on here, or was it your other blog? I’m in a Gravatar trap and M-R is trying to help but I desperately need time to catch up. Failing badly! 😦

    1. All my one world posts are on this blog. Not sure if I’ll manage to think of anything for this week. 4 – 5 am is a tricky time, before dawn now so still dark and not much to photograph in the dark.

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