More Viking Period Amber Gaming Pieces


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As told here before, in 2005 I was lucky enough to take part in unearthing the first set of amber gaming pieces to surface in Sweden for over a century. They were in a boat inhumation burial at Skamby in Östergötland. I believed that only one such set had been found before in Sweden, by Hjalmar Stolpe in the late 19th century when he excavated the cemeteries of Birka. The Birka grave in question (Bj 524) is a weapon inhumation with a silver coin dated tpq AD 909.

Then Pierre of the AHIMKAR blog pointed out that there's actually a third set of amber gaming pieces.

i-84fa1b3c33af7b435e7719d5aa21ed14-KLM_904_1_DIA_15733_2.jpgThey were found in the 1870s by non-archaeologists during construction work at Harby in Småland not far from Kalmar. Harby has several rich cemeteries that were heavily looted at the time. My old buddy Birgit Körge at the Kalmar County Museum kindly provided me with the appended pics and what little contextual information there is to be had. (Birgit and I go way back. The first time she helped me access finds and inventory notes in Kalmar was in 1992 when I was a 19-y-o undergraduate!)

The Harby gaming set (KLM 904:1-2) most likely also originates from a Viking Period grave. Most of the 13 or 14 preserved pieces are similar to the Birka ones, with a narrowed base. But the king piece, necessary to play tablut/hnefatafl is what really makes the set stand out: it's a little figurine of a bearded man!

I wonder if any of these three amber gamers ever played each other after a day's trading in Birka.

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In 2005, a team led by myself and Howard Williams excavated a 9th century boat inhumation burial at Skamby in Kuddby parish, Ãstergötland, Sweden. The finest finds we made in the grave were a collection of 23 amber gaming pieces. These are extremely rare, the previous Swedish set having surfaced…
The other day, I collected the larger finds from 2005's boat grave excavations at the conservator's studio. Among them are 23 amber gaming pieces, of which I have now taken nice photographs. The pieces' median dimensions are about 35 by 24 mm. If it weren't for these gaming pieces, the boat grave…
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Readers of my blogging over the past 14 months will have come across many references to, and tidbits from, the work with the archive report for 2005's Viking Period boat grave excavation at Skamby in Östergötland. Howard Williams and myself directed the excavations of the first boat inhumation in…

Those looks somewhat familiary......;) Cool pics!!

These are gorgeous! Does anyone know what kind of games would have been played with pieces like this? Is amber common in your area, or would it have been traded from somewhere else?

We have an inkling about what the game was like from Icelandic Medieval literature and a game documented among the Saami in the 18th century by Carolus Linnaeus. See hnefatafl.

The amber came from the southern shores of the Baltic or coastal SW Jutland.