The Chessmen, found buried in a casket on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, are thought to have been made in Norway (this article explains the various theories about their origins.)
The 93 pieces appear to belong to different sets and show little sign of use, so it's been suggested that they may have been in the possession of a merchant, who possibly buried them for safekeeping but never had a chance to retrieve them. Chess was in vogue across Europe at this time, and these intricately carved pieces, made from walrus ivory and whales' teeth and originally painted red or white (the paint has long since faded), would have been a coveted status symbol for any aristocrat.
|King and Queen from the British Museum set.|
A particular favourite today is the Berserker, who corresponds to the rook or castle in modern chess. The Berserkers were legendary Norse warriors famed for charging into battle in a mad trance and fighting without concern for personal injury (drugs may have been involved.)
|Uh Oh! Here comes trouble!|
Read more about the wonderful Lewis Chessmen here.