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Cornell University Library: Ivory Vikings | Nancy Marie Brown

In the early 19th century, on a Hebridean beach in Scotland, the sea exposed an ancient treasure cache: 93 chessmen carved from walrus ivory and whales’ teeth between AD 1150-1200. Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks, the Lewis Chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world. Harry played Wizard’s Chess with them in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Housed at the British Museum, they are among its most visited objects.

Who owned the chess pieces? Why were they hidden and who carved them? This talk talk with renowned Norse scholar Nancy Marie Brown, author of the new book Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them (St. Martin’s Press, Sept. 1, 2015), talk about these mysterious carvings. Her book connects medieval Icelandic sagas with modern archaeology, art history, forensics, and the history of board games.