Some artifacts found by archaelogists have been claimed to be
Chess pieces. However it is difficult to accept when the found piece
is isolated. Few different pieces, as the part of a set, contitutes
the minimum to recognize a Chess set without any doubt.
Here are some famous finds. Several could have been Chess pieces,
which would drastically change our view of the game history (such
as the Dalverzin-Tepe pieces). Others are probably not Chess pieces
at all (such as the Butrint one).
pieces excavated in Lothal, an harappan site in India. A complete set of terra-cotta gamesmen has
been found. Lothal was destroyed around 1900 BC which will consitute
a very early date if the intended game were Chess.
Elephant and Bull (or Knight or
Vizier ?), ivory , dated as early as 2nd c. AD, found
at Dalverzin-Tepe, Southern Uzbekistan. Their use is
unknown, some scholars think they can be game pieces.
Institute of Scientific Art, Tashkent
Kushan piece from the 1st – 2nd
century AD discovered in Dalversin-Tepe. It is probably
intended to represent a charioteer and the dress is
similar to that of Kushan royalty. However it is dissimilar
to votary pieces and the flattened base indicates its
use for games (though perhaps not chess). (Many thanks
to Gerhard Josten and Robert Bracey)
Brownish terracotta elephant
(H:4.6 cm) from Kanauj, India, about 4th c.
Terracotta Knight from Afghanistan or Northern India,
early 6th c., Germany, private collection (Photo from
Ctesiphon (Iraq). H: 3 cm
6-7th c. Pergamon-Museum,
Assumed to be a fragment of a Chess piece,
probably the head of a King, found at Afrasiab, ivory,
7 to 8th c.
Ermitage, St Petersburg, Russia
recent finding in Butrint excavation (Albania). Is that
a Chess piece ? I don't think it can be. See dedicated page here.
A Rukh, fantastic bird of prey, found
in Ferghana, 8 to 10th c.
Ermitage, St Petersburg,
Russia. (Personally, I strongly doubt that this is a
Chess piece : a phial cork or a walking stick handle?
This is also the opinion prevailing at the chess expert
group led by Manfred Eder.
Gaming piece (chess?, I think more probably nard), Western
Islamic Lands, ivory, 9th-11th c. The Metropolitan Museum
Gaming piece (chess?, nard?), glass millefiori,
Nishapur (Iran), 9-10th c., Staatliche Museen zu Berlin,
Museum für Islamische Kunst
Elephant in ivory which was once
presented as belonging to the "Charlemagne set"
although from a different origin : India,
9 or 10th
century. With its large size, 160x88 mm, it is
not even sure that it is a chessmen.
Queen or reliquaire,
ivory, East of France (Reims?), 1075-1100. Musée
National du Moyen Âge, Cluny, France
King on an ivory disc, 1150 to
1230, found in Staraya Ryazan, Ryazan Regional Local
History Museum. Found with plain discs which are assumed
to be pawn. If it is a Chess piece, it is a rare example
of piece on a disc like un Chinese Xiangqi. It could
also belong to a Viking game like Hnefatfl to my opinion
artefact was given as "Baoying Xiangqi" piece on a blog
authored by Peter Sung, a respected authority for Xiangqi from Toronto,
Canada. Any further information (estimated date, size, place of
find, etc.) will be appreciated