Playing piece of antler

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From the Brough of Birsay, Orkney

Postcard of Playing piece of antler.
© National Museums Scotland

Playing piece of antler

This antler playing piece was found during excavations of the church on the Brough of Birsay in Orkney. It is a well-known type, similar to other examples from Shetland and Greenland. The object dates from around 1100.

The conical playing piece with an acorn-shaped head is polished smooth. It has a small hole at the bottom, perhaps designed as a socket for a peg which would have enabled the piece to be used on a gaming board with holes.

Viking gaming pieces of bone, amber, glass or stone have been found both in settlements and burials. Various types of games were played, including a type of war game and others involving the use of dice.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-040-604-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.HB 275
Date: Around 1100
Material: Horn, deer; conical with acorn-shaped terminal; socketed longitudinally; polished
Dimensions: 37 mm H
What: Gaming piece
Where: Scotland, Orkney, Brough of Birsay
Description: Gaming piece of polished antler, pawn-like, from Birsay, Orkney
  • Curle, C.L. Pictish and Norse finds from the Brough of Birsay 1934-74. Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1982, pp 76, 89, 110. 
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