Chessmen among top historical items

The Lewis Chessmen in Lews Castle Museum, Isle of Lewis
The Lewis Chessmen in Lews Castle Museum, Isle of Lewis

The Lewis Chessmen have been revealed by VisitScotland as one of the top 25 objects to have shaped Scotland’s history in a stunning new e-book.

Other items appearing in the list include a Roman distance slab, a medieval football, Antarctic goggles, a carved footprint and a dancing fiddle.

The Lewis Chessmen, which feature at number nine on the date ordered list, are between 3.5cm and 10.2cm high. Most of the pieces are carved from walrus tusk, but a few are made from a whale’s tooth.

They were found in 1831 in a small stone kist in a sand dune in Uig on Lewis.

Compiled by an expert panel for the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, the 25 objects cover over 5,000 years of Scottish history and the length and breadth of the country from Shetland to Dumfries & Galloway.

The objects were chosen based on chronological and geographic spread alongside their individual interesting stories.

Eleven of the chessmen pieces are owned by the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which has a rich collection of artefacts from the period.

Long term loan

Six are on long term loan to the museum at Lews Castle, Stornoway, from the British Museum, where the remainder are held.

Alan MacKenzie, VisitScotland Islands Manager, said: “The Lewis Chessmen are of such historical importance - as well as being a characterful reminder of the strong historic ties between parts of modern-day Scotland and Norway .

“It is entirely fitting that they should represent the Outer Hebrides on this list as one of the top 25 objects we think best represent Scotland’s rich and colourful history – but it is by no means an exhaustive collection and we know there will be many more out there that people want to add!

“We chose items that were not only important to the history of the country, but also had an interesting narrative behind them and would inspire people to find out more.”

* Museum nan Eilean will be closed to the public today (Tuesday 1 August) and possibly Wednesday, due to an issue with the fire alarm system.

The system is being repaired.

All other facilities within the castle will remain open.