By Nancy Marie Brown
In the early 1800's, on a Hebridean seashore in Scotland, the ocean uncovered an old treasure cache: ninety three chessmen carved from walrus ivory. Norse netsuke, every one face person, each one packed with quirks, the Lewis Chessmen are the most recognized chess items on the planet. Harry performed Wizard's Chess with them in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Housed on the British Museum, they're between its such a lot visited and liked objects.
Questions abounded: Who carved them? the place? Nancy Marie Brown's Ivory Vikings explores those mysteries by means of connecting medieval Icelandic sagas with smooth archaeology, paintings heritage, forensics, and the historical past of board video games. within the strategy, Ivory Vikings provides a vibrant background of the four hundred years whilst the Vikings governed the North Atlantic, and the sea-road hooked up international locations and islands we expect of as some distance aside and culturally specific: Norway and Scotland, eire and Iceland, and Greenland and North the US. the tale of the Lewis chessmen explains the industrial entice in the back of the Viking voyages to the west within the 800s and 900s. and eventually, it brings from the shadows an awfully gifted girl artist of the 12th century: Margret the Adroit of Iceland.
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Additional resources for Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them
In 1200, on the sunrise of the Age of Chivalry (named from the French for horse, cheval), the typical horse in northern Europe remained “uselessly small. ” “Great horses” of 16 or extra palms tall (sixty-four inches on the withers) wouldn't look till past due within the century, after stallions from imperative Asia or Spain or North Africa have been imported and placed to the most important local mares, and their foals ended in graze on watery fens with calcium-rich limestone soil, their diets supplemented additional with oats. until eventually this selective breeding regime took carry, a knight’s mount resembled today’s Icelandic horse, which has remained purebred because the 12th century. Pony-sized, yet powerful and agile, Icelandic horses don't have any trouble transporting huge, heavy males, whose stirruped ft cling good lower than the animal’s abdominal. Even Icelanders recognize that it may well glance ridiculous. a favored comic strip, revealed on postcards, exhibits an Icelandic rider donning curler skates. The chessmen’s mounts glance “misleadingly” like “stocky, docile ponies,” specialists say, and so provide facts in their carver’s humorousness. yet “stocky” and “docile” aren't genetically linked—as an individual is aware who’s ridden an Icelandic horse. Plus, the chessmen’s stockiness is practical. A chess knight has to be effortless to know, good weighted and reliable, with few protuberances to snap off while the piece is dropped or thrown, or the board overturned in a pique. inventive license additionally applies: If the horses’ our bodies are disproportionately small in comparison to their heads, so, too, are the tiny toes of the knights. A chess-piece carver operating in walrus ivory, besides, needs to make an oblong shape (the horse) from an oval-shaped fabric (the component of tusk) to slot a sq. house (on the chessboard). That the dimensions of the pony isn't easily a comic book contact might be proved, eventually, through evaluating it to different chivalric photos of the time. The knight’s horse at the church door from Valthjofsstad, Iceland, carved in wooden with out such regulations, is considerably extra fluid and sleek than the chessmen’s mounts. however it is simply as short—as are the horses on an early thirteenth-century teeth from Limoges, France, and a tapestry from Baldishol church in southern Norway. A horse within the Hunterian Psalter, an English manuscript dated sooner than 1170, is an ideal fit for the mounts of the Lewis knights. In each one case, the rider’s toes hang down, manner down, lower than the horse’s stomach. The carver’s humorousness does peek via, notwithstanding, within the horses’ expressions. just like the dragon on Bishop Pall’s crozier or the Lewis berserks, there’s a marginally of caprice to them, as they peer from underneath their lengthy, shaggy forelocks. a few even appear to be having a look askance, as though to claim, What are we in for now? but their manes are well roached or braided. Their tack is kind of specific. The arch of their necks and shortage of anxiety on their reins express they're good proficient; the prick in their ears indicates they're alert—this artist used to be good conversant in horses and their moods.