A carved walrus-ivory counter from a Norman board game, dating from between 1150 and 1199. Sometimes counters like this are known as draughtsman, but it is far more likely that they were used for playing a game called tables, which is why our counter is called a tableman.
Tables was a game similar to backgammon. This tableman features a Norman knight in his mail armour, standing on the drawbridge of a medieval castle. It was found down a well on the Isle of Wight in 1732, made its way to Norwich Castle Museum, and then returned to Carisbrooke Castle Museum on the Isle of Wight in 1960.
This tableman would have probably been one of a set of 30 pieces, so it would have belonged to someone with both wealth and leisure. It has been suggested that this tableman represents Samson from the bible. More than 200 tablemen with figurative designs survive, and many of the designs are based on biblical or mythological subjects.
A complete set of tablemen and a tables board were found in excavations in Gloucester in 1983. There were 30 pieces and they were made of bone and antler rather than ivory. The board was made of wood and bone.
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