Boardgames in the News: The Million Pound Lost Lewis Chess Piece

The iconic Lewis Chess pieces were found nearly two hundred years ago in the Outer Hebrides.  Also known as the Uig Chess pieces, they were made in the twelfth century and were carved from walrus ivory and whale teeth.  The “set” consists of seventy-eight pieces, most of which are exhibited at the British Museum, with the rest housed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  The British Museum suggests the pieces were made in Norway and belonged to a traveling merchant who lost them on his way to Ireland.

Lewis Chess men
– Image from britishmuseum.org

Although the collection is often referred to as a Chess “set”, the pieces show a large variation in size suggesting they may actually comprise several different sets, albeit with several pieces missing.  Six months ago, one of these turned up in a drawer in a family home in Edinburgh.  The walrus tusk “Warder” (the equivalent of a Rook) had been bought in 1964 for £5.  Now that authenticity has been confirmed, it is due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s on 2nd July and is expected to fetch up to a million pounds.  The original hoard contained a total of ninety-three artifacts, the whereabouts of four of which remain unknown. The moral?  Have a clear out – you never know what may be hiding in your sock drawer!

Lewis Chess men
– Image from Sotheby’s