Thousand-Year-Old Game Discovered by German Archaeologists

Archeological tools, Archeologist working on site, close-up, hand and tool.

Archaeologists recently made an intriguing find of medieval gaming pieces at a long-lost castle in southern Germany.

Artifacts from the 11th and 12th centuries AD, including wonderfully well-preserved chessman, dice, and other gaming pieces, have been discovered.

They were found beneath the remains of a wall, possibly lost or concealed during the Middle Ages. 

The results were announced last week in a joint press release by the University of Tübingen, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), and the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments Baden-Württemberg (LAD). 

A 4-centimeter-tall horse statue has intricately molded eyes and a mane. This era’s high-quality chess pieces are characterized by their elaborate designs.

From its Eastern origins, chess was brought to Europe over a thousand years ago. However, early chess pieces are pretty uncommon.

Crafted from antler, this find sheds light on the pastimes of the Middle Ages. It consists of four flower-shaped gaming pieces, a six-sided dice, and a chess piece shaped like a knight.

There is no denying that the most astounding find is the knight piece, thanks to its pristine condition. The upper part of it has a worn shine from all the handling and positioning along its L-shaped journey. One can imagine the people playing, creating an appreciated connection from past to present.

Dr. Jonathan Scheschkewitz, one of the archaeologists who contributed to the research, said that being an expert chess player was considered an essential quality for a medieval knight. 

The parts of the game were found in 2022, located in what is believed to be a castle in southern Germany.

Chess may have arrived in Europe shortly after the pieces were constructed, according to historians. The objects are thought to have been made in the eleventh or twelfth century.

As stated in the announcement, the researchers want to glean as much information as they can regarding the gaming realm of the medieval aristocracy and the origins of European chess through a meticulous examination of the discoveries.