Thousand-year-old discovery comes as ‘complete surprise’ to experts

Jun 12, 2024 | Latest News | 0 comments

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Archaeologists in Germany recently announced the discovery of a game collection that dates back 1,000 years.

The findings were announced in a press release published by the University of Tübingen, the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments Baden-Württemberg (LAD) and the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) last week. The game pieces were found at the site of a presumed castle in southern Germany in 2022.

“During archaeological excavations at a forgotten castle in southern Germany, an excellently preserved knight piece has now been discovered,” a statement from officials read. “The find is part of a unique games collection, which also includes other gaming pieces and a dice.”

The collection includes flower-shaped game pieces, a dice with six eyes and a horse chess piece. The pieces, which were carved from antlers, were discovered at the site of what used to be a castle in Baden-Württemberg, hidden under debris.

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“They were lying under the debris of a wall where they were lost or hidden in the Middle Ages,” University of Tübingen professor Michael Kienzle explained in the press release. Some of the flower-shaped pieces have red paint residue, which researchers plan to chemically analyze.

“The eyes and mane of the 4 centimeter high horse figure are vividly shaped,” the press release explained. “This elaborate design is typical of particularly high-quality chess pieces from this period.”

Historians believe that the pieces were made shortly after chess was introduced to Europe. The artifacts date back to either the 11th or 12th centuries.

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“Over 1,000 years ago, the game of chess found its way from the Orient to Europe,” the officials’ statement read. “Chess pieces from the early days of the game are very rare.” 

One of the archaeologists involved in the study, Dr. Jonathan Scheschkewitz, explained that medieval knights were expected to know how to play chess well. It is possible that the set belonged to a knight.

“In the Middle Ages, chess was one of the seven skills that a good knight should master,” he said. “It is therefore not surprising that known finds mostly come from castles.”

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Another historian said that the archaeological discovery was “a complete surprise” to him.

“The discovery of an entire games collection [from] the 11th/12th century came as a complete surprise to us, and the horse-shaped knight piece is a real highlight,” Dr. Lukas Werther said.

Archaeologists hope that the discovery will help shed more light on the history of games in medieval Europe.

“By analyzing the finds in detail, the researchers hope to gain a variety of insights into the gaming world of the medieval nobility and the roots of European chess,” the statement added.

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