1,000-Year-Old Board Game Pieces Found In Castle

An ancient chess knight dating back 1,000 years has been unearthed by archaeologists in the ruins of a long-lost castle in Germany.

The previously unknown site, in the mountains of Burgstein, neat Reutlingen, in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, was discovered in 2022.

Now antiquities experts have released images of some of the treasures found there, including 11th- and 12th-century game pieces.

One chess knight carved from antlers shows an astonishing similarity to modern-day chess pieces.

Traces of colouring found in lab tests show that even 1,000 years ago one side was a dark red to distinguish pieces from the opposing player’s natural creamy hue.

And microscopic details of how the piece was held show, say experts, that it was lifted as it was moved around the board, just like its modern-day version.

A team of international experts from the University of Tuebingen, the State Office for Monument Preservation (LAD) in the Stuttgart Regional Council and the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) have been analysing the finds.

As well as the chess piece, archaeologists found a single die and several pieces from another game buried under one of the castle’s walls.

A statement from the German Archaeological Institute on 3rd June obtained by Newsflash said: “A team of archaeologists discovered an almost 1.000-year-old games collection including a well-preserved chess piece, gaming pieces and dice.

Image shows a chess piece from the 11th/12th century, undated photo. The finds were discovered at an archaeological excavation at Burgstein, Germany, in 2022. (University of Tuebingen, Victor Brigola/Newsflash)

“Laboratory analyses show that one party played with red.

“The laboratory results also allow conclusions to be drawn about the astonishing continuity of the rules of the game.

“The detailed analysis of the finds promises insights into the gaming world of the medieval nobility and the origins of the European game of chess.

“The finds will be on display for the first time from June 2024.”

Researchers have been astonished by just how similar the ancient and modern games and pieces are.

The institute added: “Over 1,000 years ago, the game of chess found its way from the Orient to Europe. Chess pieces from the early days of the game are very rare.

“During archaeological excavations at a forgotten castle in southern Germany, an excellently preserved knight piece has now been discovered.

“The find is part of a unique games collection, which also includes other gaming pieces and a dice.”

Experts say well-preserved chess pieces and other board games dating back to before the 13th century are extremely rare in Central Europe.

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

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

Dr Michael Kienzle from the University of Tuebingen said the pieces were found in the ruined castle’s rubble.

He explained: “They lay under the debris of a wall where they were lost or hidden in the Middle Ages.”

Image shows a chess piece, and a game piece from the 11th/12th century, undated photo. The finds were discovered at an archaeological excavation at Burgstein, Germany, in 2022. (University of Tuebingen, Victor Brigola/Newsflash)

His colleague Dr Flavia Venditti added: “Under the microscope, a typical sheen from holding and moving the pieces can be seen.”

Chess finds its roots in seventh-century India before it emerged in Europe. The rules of the game as we know them today emerged at the end of the 15th century before being standardised in the 19th century.

To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Joseph GolderSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash

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