'Ivory Vikings' - the most famous chessmen

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MANCHESTER >> "Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them," by Nancy Marie Brown, is a richly imagined journey into the Viking world that created the Lewis chessmen, once called "the most important chess pieces in history" by the New York Times.

In the early 1800s, on a Hebridean beach in Scotland, the sea exposed an ancient treasure cache: 92 chessmen carved from walrus ivory. The discovery raised many questions, most importantly, who carved them, where, and why? Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks, the Lewis chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world. Harry played Wizard's Chess with them in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Housed at the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland, with six now on permanent loan in the Isle of Lewis, they are among each museum's most visited and beloved objects.

"Ivory Vikings" explores the mystery of the Lewis chessmen by connecting medieval Icelandic sagas with modern archeology, art history, forensics, and the history of board games. In the process, "Ivory Vikings" presents a vivid history of the 400 years when the Vikings ruled the North Atlantic and the sea road connecting countries and islands we think of as far apart and culturally distinct: Norway and Scotland, Ireland and Iceland, and Greenland and North America.

The story of the Lewis chessmen explains the economic lure behind the Viking voyages to the west in the 800s and 900s. And finally, it brings from the shadows an extraordinarily talented woman artist of the twelfth century: Margret the Adroit of Iceland.

Nancy Marie Brown will be discussing her book, "Ivory Vikings," at the Northshire Bookstore on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the bookstore online at www.northshire.com.

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