Scots Roots

The Lewis Chessmen
February 4, 2015, 9:41 am
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History | Tags: , , ,

Lewis chess piece 1Thought to have been made in Norway in the 12th century, a hoard of medieval gaming pieces was found at Uig on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in 1831.

The collection consisted of 78 chess pieces, 14 tablemen and a belt buckle.

Most of the pieces are carved in walrus ivory but some are made from whale teeth.

Lewis chess piece 211 of the pieces are currently exhibited at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the other 82 pieces are owned and usually exhibited by the British Museum in London.

Some of the chessmen were stained red when they were found indicating that red and white may have been used to distinguish the two sides as opposed to the modern black and white.

The sizes of the pieces vary and it has been suggested that they may belong to at least five different chess sets.

Uig beach

Uig beach

Copyright © Scots Roots Research 2015


3 Comments so far
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I once heard a story that when the chessmen were discovered by a local man in 1831, he was actually afraid of them and thought that they were fairies or from the fairies…have you ever heard this as a legitimate account?
I’ve been to the beach where they were found and have seen the figures at the National Museum….they are a compelling reminder of just how remarkably close generation upon generation of history surrounds every aspect of the Scottish landscape

Comment by newenglandselkie

There are a number of stories of how they were found – one being that they were discovered by Malcolm McLeod who came across them in a hole in the sand, thought they were fairies and ran away but was sent back to fetch them by his wife.

Comment by Scots Roots

Fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Chips Off the Old Block

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