In 1831, on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland, a stunning hoard was found. Rather than the usual silver and gold that excites treasure hunters and historians alike, this hoard contained ivory game pieces---93 of them, 78 of which were chessmen, 14 were large gaming counters, and there was an elaborate belt buckle. Some of the chess pieces were stained red, which aligns with the medieval standard of red and white (unpainted ivory) chess games.

At present, 11 of the Lewis Chessmen are in the National Museum of Scotland. The rest are in England's British Museum. This find makes an almost complete chess set.

For nearly 200 years, all 4 rooks and 1 knight have been missing from the set. Until now.

Meet the recent discovery, a rook.

This chess piece has spent years wrapped in a paper bag, hidden away in a drawer. The current owner’s late father had been an antique dealer. He purchased the well-worn ivory in 1964 for £5, apparently unaware of its true identity. The late owner’s wife believed the chess piece had “almost magical qualities.”

The famed game piece is expected to fetch £ 1,000,000. So…maybe it does?!

Check your drawers and attics, readers! There are still 4 missing pieces.

The current chess board in the British Museum all cleaned up and ready to play.
More of the chess pieces with round, flat game tokens to the right and the buckle to the left.

The Lewis Chessman are among the biggest draws at both the British Museum and Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland. I can vouch for their popularity. At the British Museum, these guys had their own docent assigned to the display!

The only other item that had its own docent was an Easter Island statue (see below).

Don't you think it's interesting that ivory game pieces and a giant basalt statue---and not silver and gold---get their own docent?

Thanks for stopping by for #HistoryThursday where I like to celebrate all things big and small, known and barely known in history.

Cheers to you, Reader!