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Lewis Chessmen come to Shetland

THE WORLD famous Lewis Chessmen are to be brought to Shetland in a “once in a lifetime” exhibition next month.

‘The Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked’ is described as the most comprehensive exhibition showing the medieval collection for more than a decade.

Following successful shows in both Edinburgh and Aberdeen, the touring exhibition will be on show at Shetland Museum and Archives from 21 January until 27 March as part of an ongoing strategic partnership between the museum’s managers Shetland Amenity Trust and National Museums Scotland.

The display will feature chessmen drawn from the collections of both the British Museum and National Museums Scotland, and is described as “a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these pieces together in Shetland”. 

It draws upon new research by National Museums Scotland on the craftsmanship, origins and historical context of the chessmen.

The Lewis Chessmen were discovered on the western shore of the Isle of Lewis in 1831, as part of a hoard of walrus ivory. The hoard includes assembled pieces made of walrus ivory from at least four chess sets, probably made in Norway in the late 12th or early 13th century.

As the largest and finest group of early chessmen to survive, they are one of the most significant archaeological discoveries ever made in Scotland and are of major international importance.

Few chessmen survive at all from the Middle Ages, and these are unparalleled in their high-quality, humour and intricacy of design.

The exhibition is supported by the Scottish government and there will be a series of related events and activities running throughout the exhibition.