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Lewis chessmen

The Lewis chessmen are one of the few complete sets of medieval chessmen that have survived until today,

The chessmen were discovered in 1831 in a sand-bank at the head of the Bay of Uig on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, one of the Outer Hebrides. We do not have a direct account of their discovery, but it is reported that they were found in a small chamber of dry-built stone about 15 feet below the top of the sand-bank.

They were exhibited by Roderick Ririe at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, on April 11, 1831. The chessmen were soon after split up, with 10 being purchased by Kirkpatrick Sharpe and the others (67 chessmen and 14 tablemen) were purchased on behalf of the British Museum.

Kirkpatrick Sharpe later found another Lewis chessman to take his collection up to eleven, all of which were later sold to Lord Londesborough. In 1888 they were again sold, but this time the purchaser was the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, who donated the pieces to the Scottish National Museum, Edinburgh.

The pieces donated to the British Museum are still located there, and can be found in Room 42 with the exhibition code M&ME 1831,11-1.

All of the pieces in the collection are carved of walrus ivory. The collection consists of 8 Kings, 8 Queens, 16 Bishops, 15 Knights, 12 Rooks, and 19 Pawns.