Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Lewis Chessmen

The Lewis Chessmen, a collection of chess pieces found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831, have comical facial expressions ranging from overdone gravitas to worry and fear -- one rook appears to be glancing over his shoulder, wondering where he might run away to. Then there are the Beserkers -- several of the medieval 78 pieces carved from walrus tusks and whale bone represent Beserkers, warriors who were so fierce that they fought in a trance-like fury, and are seen chewing their shields in readiness!

Yet contemporary scholars suggest that what to us seems comical, may to the makers and original owners of the chess pieces have seemed perfectly solemn and serious... The 78 pieces may be Norwegian in origin and may be the remnants of as many as five complete chess sets.