Diameter: 3.100 cm
Height: 2.500 cm
Gift of Revd Charles T.E. Whateley
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
Prehistory and Europe
Set of gaming pieces
Anglo-Saxon, late 6th century AD
From the princely burial at Taplow, Buckinghamshire
The Anglo-Saxons were avid games players and gaming counters, dice and playing pieces of bone are found in many men’s graves. This set of gaming pieces was found at the feet of the dead man in the princely burial at Taplow, close to the pair of drinking-horns also in the British Museum. Their regular spacing when discovered suggests that they may have been laid out on a board or possibly buried in their carrying box.
The actual content of board games in early Anglo-Saxon England is difficult to identify, but various games of skill are known from graves in Continental Europe. A Germanic burial dating from AD 300 found in the cemetery at Leuna, Saxony, contained a set of black and white counters and a double-sided wooden board. This was marked out for two games, tablula, a form of backgammon and latrunculi (soldiers) a game of matched forces, the aim being to capture the opponent’s men. Both could have been among the games brought into Britain during the Germanic migrations.
The gaming pieces were made from tubes of bone capped at either end by bone discs held in position by copper alloy rivets with gilded heads. A similar gaming piece was discovered in 2013 during excavations of an Anglo-Saxon hall at Lyminge in Kent.
J. Stevens, 'On the remains found in an Anglo-Saxon tumulus at Taplow, Buckinghamshire', Journal of the British Archa-2, 40 (1884), pp. 61-71, plates 1, 11-12
R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford, The Sutton Hoo ship burial-1, vol. 3 (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)