Detectorist discovery of a full set of Hnefatafl pieces sells at auction

A complete set of hnefatafl pieces was auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb auction house in London today.

The only complete 27 piece set of the Viking game from the 9th century,  were recovered by a metal detectorist at Torksey, Lincolnshire.

According to the listing from the London-based auction house, the set comprised 24 spherical pieces, 12 turreted pieces and a king. All the pieces are made from lead with an inset copper decoration on the king.

In addition to the collection, a custom-built board was included in the sale. The collection had been expected to fetch up to £1,000 ($1,289), but the auctioneer stated there had been a lot of advance interest. A series of online bidders took the final sale price up to £2,600 ($3,350). The buyer will pay an additional 24% service fee.

The Hnefatafl set was discovered by 73-year-old Mick Bott when he found the pieces in Lincolnshire, England. Together with two friends.

Hnefatafl was widely played in Scandinavia during the Viking Age. One of the tafl type of strategy games, it was mentioned in several of the Icelandic sagas and many pieces have been found over the years. Earlier this year, a blue and white glass piece in remarkable condition was found in a ditch in Lindisfarne, the site of one of the earliest Viking raids on the British Isles.

Although often compared to chess, the two-player game involved an attacker and a defender. One player had to defend the King and advance it to a corner of the board, while the opponent had to defend those corners and capture the King (by surrounding it) to win.

A popular modern interpretation is that the game was used to encourage strategic thinking on the battlefield.

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