Lewis Chessmen Berserkers T-shirt
Design by the very talented artist Sam Johnson.
Design based on three of the four Rook "Berserker" pieces from The Lewis Chessmen.
The Berserkers (Old Norse: berserkir) are attested by the 13th century scholar and historian Snorri Sturluson as "bare", which he understood to mean that the warriors went into battle bare-chested, or without armour. However in the saga of King Hrólfr Kraki, a berserker who is able to shape-shift into a bear and uses this ability to fight for king Hrólfr Kraki. "Men saw that a great bear went before King Hrolf's men, keeping always near the king. He slew more men with his fore paws than any five of the king's champions." The wild fury shown on the Rook pieces and the biting of the shields lends further credence to the Berserker theory.
Found in 1831, in the sand hills at Uig in the western coast of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, an exquisitely crafted group of 93 gaming pieces of carved walrus ivory was discovered. The pieces comprised of 78 seated kings and queens, bishops, knights, standing warders (the equivalent to a modern-day rook or castle), and pawns; 14 “tablemen” pieces similar to those used in modern backgammon; and one buckle. The set is theorised to have belonged to an itinerant trader who lost the pieces at sea which in turn lead to the pieces being washed ashore centuries later. The figures are intricately carved, and decorated with Romanesque motifs, presenting a date based on stylistic grounds to the 12th-13th century AD.