Medieval Chess: Lewis Chessmen
The Lewis Chessmen is a collection of medieval chess pieces that were discovered on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in the early 19th century. The pieces date back to the late 12th or early 13th century and are believed to have been made in Norway or Iceland.
The Lewis Chessmen consist of 93 pieces, 78 of which are held by the British Museum in London, and the remaining 15 are held by the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The pieces are made of walrus ivory and whale teeth, and are intricately carved in the form of characters from medieval Norse mythology and daily life.
The chessmen are divided into two sets: one set is made up of the kings, queens, bishops, knights, warders (or rooks), and pawns, while the other set consists of extra pieces that are used for playing the game of hnefatafl, a Viking strategy game.
The kings and queens in the Lewis Chessmen set are depicted as seated figures, wearing crowns and holding swords and shields. The bishops are depicted as figures wearing mitres and holding croziers, while the knights are shown on horseback, wielding swords and shields. The warders are represented by heavily armed soldiers, and the pawns are depicted as smaller, less detailed figures.
The pieces are notable for their detailed and expressive facial features, as well as their intricate clothing and armor. They provide a fascinating glimpse into the daily life and mythology of medieval Norse culture, and are considered to be some of the finest examples of medieval art in the world.
The origins of the Lewis Chessmen are uncertain, but they are believed to have been made in Norway or Iceland in the late 12th or early 13th century. It is thought that they were owned by a wealthy merchant or nobleman, and were perhaps used for playing games of chess or hnefatafl.
The Lewis Chessmen have had a significant impact on popular culture, and have been the subject of numerous books, movies, and TV shows. They continue to inspire artists and historians, and are considered to be one of the most important artifacts of medieval Norse culture in the world.
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