Updated: Aug 14, 2019
One of the five lost Isle of Lewis chess pieces, which was recently found tucked away in a desk drawer in Scotland, just sold for a cool $1 mil at auction.
A family in Edinburgh. Scotland recently discovered that a medieval chess piece that had been purchased by their grandfather 50 years ago for just a few pounds is actually one of the missing pieces from the 12th-century Isle of Lewis chess set.
The carved walrus bone chess piece is of a man wearing a helmet and carrying a shield, and sword. Called a “warder”—today’s chess equivalent of a rook—it was originally purchased as a simple antique. Over the years, the daughter, who loved its quirky, “magical” design, kept it in a fabric bag in a desk drawer. But the family had no idea of its historical significance until six months ago, when the granddaughter brought it to Sotheby’s Auction House for an appraisal. After close analysis, the auction house told the shocked family (who wants to remain anonymous) that it was actually one of the five missing Isle of Lewis chess pieces.
The Lewis Chessmen are believed to have been carved in Trondheim, Norway in the late 12th century. It is thought that they may have been buried in a sand dune on Scotland’s Isle of Lewis by a shipwrecked merchant, where they remained until they were rediscovered in 1831, and then sold off to a number of individuals. Eventually all but 5 of the pieces were collected and the set is now housed at both the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland.
In July 2019, the piece sold at auction for almost $1 million. Still missing from the chess set is one knight and three other warders.