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The Lewis Chessmen

Norwegian art from 1100 AD

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The Lewis chessmen were probably made from walrus tusks about 1150 AD. Experts are unanimous in regarding the find as the most astonishing collection of ancient chessmen in existence. The collection is on display in the British Museum as one of the museum's highlights.

They were found on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides west of Scotland in 1831, from this the name "Lewis Chessmen". The Hebrides were, during the 12th century, part of the Norwegian Kingdom. The ornaments on the back of the figures relate to certain sculptures found in western Norway. A queen nearly identical to the Lewis pieces has been found in the Norwegian town of Trondheim, and recently a king similar to the Lewis king was found on an island west of Trondheim. It is, therefore, believed the chessmen originate from a Norwegian art workshop, possibly in Trondheim.

The Viking merchants brought walrus ivory from Greenland to Norway, then marketed the finished goods in the British Isles. The Vikings were certainly more than raiders, they were ingenious craftsmen and travelling merchants as well. Traces of them were found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831.

Complete Lewis chess set in true size

The set consists of 32 replicas of the original Lewis chessmen:
King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook (functions as tower), and Pawns (like rune stones), all together 16 white and 16 brown pieces.

Included in the set is a textile chess board, 45 x 45 cm.

Single chessmen are also available, and a British Museum book  which describes the Isle of Lewis find, how it was found, its origin and historical and artistic importance.


Lewis mini chess set

Reduced size chess pieces, height about 3 - 4 cm. Contained in a sturdy box in colors of ivory or brown. The box lid is designed as chess board. The box is about 20 cm in diameter.


Lewis nøkkelringer with a chain. Reduced size of a knight and a rook, approx. 5 cm high.