The Afrasiab Chessmen

Les pièces d'Afrasiab

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Histoire des échecs




This is the earliest known Chess pieces.  It was found at Afrasiab, near Samarkand, Uzbekistan by archaelogist and historian Prof. Jurij F. Burjakov in 1977.

King, Chariot, Vizier, Elephant 

The set is made of ivory and consists of 7 pieces. They are conserved at the State Museum of Samarkand. It is dated from 6th to 8th century. About 700 AD and before 712 AD (because a coin so dated belongs to the same layer) is the most reliable (cf G. Semenov 2007).

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Two Soldiers


Another isolated but similar Knight (in bone) had been also found in Afrasiab in the previous year (1976).

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Another King (or Vizier) has also been found in Afrasiab:

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The original set inludes 2 Soldiers. A third pawn has also been found in Afrasiab and drawn to my attention by Manfred Eder:

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There is also another terracotta Knight which is very similar. Origin estimated from Afghanistan or Northern India, about early 6th century, so this piece is the eldest presented on this page. Kept in a private collection in Germany, its existence has been reported by Manfred Eder.

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My warmest thanks to Manfred Eder who made a lot of documentation and illustrations available to me.

The images and photographs shown on this page are coming from the following sources :

The authors of theses works, books and photographs, are kindly acknowledged.
If there is any problem with their presence here, please do
mail me.