What can you tell about the Vikings from a chess piece?

Primary History article

By Alf Wilkinson, published 15th May 2020

Alf Wilkinson looks at one artefact, and asks what it tells us about the Viking world, and Viking links with other societies and civilisations.

In 1831, on a lonely beach on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, someone – we are not quite sure who – made an amazing discovery. 93 pieces from 4 separate chess sets were found. 78 were complete, others were blanks or in the process of being finished. How they got there, no one is sure. Were they lost, or buried as a hoard and the owner never came back for them?

Look closely at the photograph of one of the chess pieces. What can we tell from the picture? How was the chess piece made? How big is it? What is it made from? Who made it? How old is it? What was it used for? How do we know? What other questions about the piece do you have?...

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