Europe's Oldest Chessman


<font color=green>Emerald Angel<br><font color=mag
May 12, 2001
TIRANA, Albania (Reuters) - Archeologists in Albania have found what appears to be Europe's oldest chessman, suggesting the game was played on the continent at least 500 years earlier than previously thought, a British professor says.
The ivory piece was found in the ancient southern Albanian city of Butrint in a Roman palace dated to the fifth or sixth centuries, said archeology professor Richard Hodges of East Anglia University.
"We are wondering if it is the king or queen because it has a little cross but we are not sure," Hodges told Reuters by phone on Thursday.
Chess is believed to have originated in India in the fourth or fifth centuries, and to have come to Europe via the Silk Road.
Historians believe the game was played by the upper classes throughout Europe by the early 12th century, based on the walrus-ivory chessmen found in Scotland's Outer Hebrides and other pieces from as far as southern Italy.
"However, it now looks as though it was already being played in the central Mediterranean over 500 years earlier," said Hodges, scientific leader of the Butrint Foundation which supports local archeologists.


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