Viking Board Game Piece from the 8th Century Found in England

February 12, 2020 - 2:33pm

A rare acrchaelogical discovery was made in England that also has links to board gaming.  An excavation on the island of Lindisfarne has uncovered a swirling blue and white piece of worked glass that archaelologists theorize may have come from the Viking board game Hnefatafl (King's Table).  The piece, which is dated to the 8th Century, is significant as it is a rare artifact that links Lindisfarne to the Viking raiders that would come to wreck havoc on Britain and Ireland throughout the early Medieval period.

Lindisfarne is famed for being the site of a early medieval Anglo-Saxon monastery and the location of the first major Viking raid on Britain or Ireland, occurring in 793 AD, which ushered in nearly three centuries of destruction and occupation that greatly impacted English history.  While the gaming piece may have been dropped by a Norse raider, it may have also been owned by a wealthy pilgrim or the monks themselves, which if true, demonstrates the influence of Viking culture already within England about the time of the first raids.

Hnefatafl, the game the piece is speculated to have come from, is a early medieval game that has roots even in certain Roman and Greek games.  As a rare ancient asymetrical game, Hnefatafl features one player with a king player surrounded by pawns in the center of the board with another player controlling pieces (outnumbering those of the king player) in the corners of the board.  The goal is for the King Player to try to get his King into one of the corners without being captured.

More information about this discovery can be found here.

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