The Lewis Chessmen
Les pièces de Lewis
These Chessmen set was discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
They are 93 pieces forming parts of four or five sets, two complete. 82 are in the British Museum in London and 11 are in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. They are 8 Kings, 8 Queens, 16 Bishops, 15 Knights, 12 Warders (Rooks) and 19 Pawns. In addition, they are 14 plain disks for Tabula game (Backgammon ancestor) and 1 belt-buckle.
The vast majority is carved from walrus tusk, a very few from whale teeth. Some are stained with red. The dimensions are from 7 to 10.2 cm for major pieces and 3.5 to 5.8 cm for Pawns. In his booklet, Neil Stratford says that if the Lewis chessmen were to be placed on board, each square would have to be at least 10.3 x 10.3 cm. Such a board would have been 82 cm across. It is most likely excessive. Francine Johnson from Rose Cottage Industries, Isle of Harris, Western Isles, Scotland pointed to me they place those pieces on 5 x 5 cm boards and that fits perfectly.
It is believed that those chessmen were crafted in Scandinavian, probably Trondheim in Norway were fragments and drawing of similar chessmen have been found. Until 1266, the Outer Isles were politically subject to the kingdom of Norway. The Lewis Chessmen belong the Scandinavian Romanesque art of the mid XIIth century.
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.
Thanks to Francine Johnson
If there is any problem with their presence here, please do mail me.