At least six Lewis chessmen to return home after deal struck with British Musuem

It has not been revealed which pieces are to return
It has not been revealed which pieces are to return
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SIX of the priceless world famous chessmen will feature in the permanent displays at the new Museum and Archive at Lews Castle when it opens in 2014 after a £13.5m revamp.

• The chessmen will be on “permanent loan” to the new museum

Previously Western Isles MP Mr MacNeil has demanded the “repatriation” of the British Museum’s 82 priceless Viking chess pieces back to Scotland. Another 11 are in the hands of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Prior to that former culture minister Linda Fabiani was sent to London to view the chessmen and make the public case for their return.

But museum chiefs said moving the chessmen back to Scotland was impossible, since it would open a Pandora’s box for the return of artefacts.

Unlike some of the British Museum’s controversial artefacts such as the Elgin marbles, the chessmen were not plundered but bought for 80 guineas from an Edinburgh dealer who himself had paid £30 for them.

The types of pieces have not yet been revealed.

The loan agreement has resulted from a formal partnership between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) and the British Museum.

The new gallery space will also be a partnership gallery with the British Museum.

Last year, a touring exhibition of 29 of the pieces saw more than 120,000 people flock to see the priceless artefacts in Scotland.

In total 90 pieces were discovered beneath a sand dune near Uig - and are the most expensive and famous chess pieces in the world.

Some experts believe the intricately carved pieces to be of Scandinavian origin - others that they could have been made in Scotland by a master craftsman influenced by Viking art.

Most historians believe they were probably made in Norway in around 1200AD, and were originally bound for Ireland.

Lewis was once part of the Norse Kingdom of Mann and the Isles between 1079 and 1266.