Canadian archeologist: Oldest chess piece to be returned to Jordan

Amman, A Canadian professor and archeologist has said he will return to Jordan the oldest chess piece ever found, a rook dating to around 1,300 years ago.University of Victoria professor John Oleson found the carved sandstone piece during an excavation…

Amman, A Canadian professor and archeologist has said he will return to Jordan the oldest chess piece ever found, a rook dating to around 1,300 years ago.

University of Victoria professor John Oleson found the carved sandstone piece during an excavation at Humayma in southern Jordan in 1991.

The castle-shaped stone is squat and rectangular, with "horn-like projections". Although Oleson mentions it does resemble other artifacts, such as a Nabataean betyl, which is an altar made out of a block of stone, when he compared the rock carving to other early chess pieces, the parallels were "far more convincing."

According to Oleson, the object has the same abstract shape that other early Islamic chess pieces had.

References to chess-playing can be found in Islamic texts as early as the seventh century AD, Oleson said, and the game was "very popular."

The piece Oleson found is "nearly identical" to abstract rook pieces dating from later centuries that were found near or in Jordan.

In his reply to a letter by the Department of Antiquities (DoA), a copy of which was obtained by Petra, Oleson said that the sandstone piece of Islamic design dated 649-749 during which period the Abbasid Dynasty resided in Humayma.

He said chess has a history of 1,300 years in Jordan and is still an important game, adding that he presented his research at the American Centre of Oriental Research.

Samya Khouri, Director of Museums and Archeology Awareness at the DoA, told Petra that the department had demanded that the Canadian professor return the piece along with the study he conducted on it, adding that the authenticity and accuracy of the data, which was published in the media, is the archeologist's responsibility.

Source: Jordan News Agency