An Ancient Game Board Could Solve a Great Scottish Mystery

Archaeologists have searched for the location of the Monastery of Deer for centuries.

Archeological tools, Archeologist working on site, hand and tool.
Archeological tools, Archeologist working on site, hand and tool.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Book of Deer is one of the great mysteries of Scottish history, and the discovery of a 7th or 8th Century game board might help solve it, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The game, Hnefatafl, involves attackers, a king, and the king’s defenders, and ends when the king reaches one of the corners of the board or is captured.

The mystery of the Book of Deer has to do with the location of the Monastery of Deer, where monks inscribed gospels and prayers in the book during the 10th Century. Where exactly in the northeast of Scotland the monastery sat is yet unknown. In the 12th Century, the book resurfaced when monks inscribed it with a variety of notes, marking the earliest written records of Scottish Gaelic.

The game board was found outside the town of Mintlaw. The working theory goes that the board game belonged to the monks of Deer, which would place the monastery at the site of the recent excavation. More research is required to support this theory, but it is an exciting development in a mystery that has spanned hundreds of years.

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