When an antique dealer bought a small chess piece for about 5 euros in 1964, he never would have imagined that the figure would be worth so much today.
When the man bought it, he just thought the nine-centimeter doll to be "just beautiful." However, he did not know that the special piece was made of walrus ivory and must have been at least 900 years old. ..
The man bored with the piece fairly quickly, and it ended up at the bottom of a drawer for years. Only occasionally did it appear again, during major clean-ups, for example. "My mother thought that it was an interesting figure," said the anonymous owner. "She thought it was special and perhaps magical."
From the 12th century
It has turned out that the Scottish woman (who passed away years ago) may have been right... The grumpy-looking figure appears to have been part of the so-called Lewis Chess Games, which were made in Norway or Iceland in the 12th century! How the chess piece ended up on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland is not entirely clear.
An incomplete game
In 1831, 79 of these chess pieces were discovered on the island. They were probably part of a load that was thrown overboard in the Middle Ages during a shipwreck. A total of four chess game sets were found, but unfortunately, only two games are complete.
The National Museum of Scotland
The current owner of the figure knew nothing about this story. So, it remained untouched at the bottom of a drawer for years. The man had no idea that his figure was one of the missing pieces of the game. The rest of the chess set had been preserved for years in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, as well as other places.
When the old man came across the figure again, he decided to have its value estimated. After all, if you do not try, you will never know. The valuer immediately saw that it had to be a figure from the Lewis game. It was one of the missing figures, called a "knight" in chess.
Romanesque ivory carving
What is so special about these chess sets and the pieces that belong to them is that they have been preserved so well, despite their age. The medieval figures are a wonderful example of Romanesque ivory carvings of the highest quality. In the 12th century, chess from Arabia (via Sicily and Spain) slowly found its way to Europe.
The Vikings were trading with the Arabs around the Mediterranean at the time, so the chess game ended up in Scandinavia first. The Lewis chess pieces are thus part of the first chess set that carries a completely European signature. For example, the runner is represented as a bishop and no longer as an elephant, as it was in the Arab world.
Together, all the pieces are seen as an important symbol of European civilization. In one of the popular "Harry Potter "movies ("The Philosopher's Stone"), chess figures were based on this age-old chess set, as shown in the image above.
One of the greatest art treasures
The figure was probably made in Trondheim, Norway. "My jaw dropped in astonishment," said the valuer investigating the piece. "Experts have always kept looking for the missing chess pieces, and here, there was one. In fact, this is one of the greatest art treasures of the Vikings!"
An enormous value
After the discovery of this figure, four more pieces are still missing. The old Scottish owner sometimes still wonders why he didn't have the chess piece valued earlier. For more than 55 years, the figure had been collecting dust in his drawer — its value is estimated at 600,000 to 1 million euros!