$1.8 million object found in drawer

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A chess piece bought in the 1960s for five pounds by an antiques dealer in Scotland has been identified as a highly prized 900-year-old artefact from the Viking era.

The man bought the piece, made of walrus ivory tusk, in 1964 and stored it in his drawer for 55 years. The piece is known as the Lewis warder and is now expected to bring between 600,000 pounds ($A1,090,241) and 1 million pounds ($A1.81 million) at an auction next month.

The Lewis chessmen were discovered on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides in 1831, but the circumstances in which they were discovered is shrouded in mystery.

The 8.8 centimetre tall piece, the equivalent of a rook, is the first of the missing chessmen to be identified. It is set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s on July 2.

media_cameraThe antique dealer bought the piece in 1964 and kept it in a drawer. Picture: Tristan Fewings
media_cameraThere are four more pieces still missing from the set. Picture: Tristan Fewings

So far 93 pieces have been found, with four still missing from the set. Most of the pieces are carved from walrus ivory from the tusk.

The chess piece was passed down to the family of the antiques dealer who did not realise its significance and kept it in a drawer for over five decades.

The Lewis chessmen are intricate, expressive chess pieces in the form of Norse warriors, carved in the 12th century.

The original hoard, discovered in 1831, are now held in both the British Museum in London and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh — but four of the chess pieces remain missing.

Sotheby’s European sculpture expert Alexander Kader said the find was “one of the most exciting and personal rediscoveries to have been made during my career”.

Originally published as $1.8 million object found in drawer

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