As detailed by a report from the Portable Antiquities Scheme included in the lot, it was dug up near Bradwell, Great Yarmouth, in July 2015 and came for sale from the finder.
The 1¾in (5cm) miniature sculpture, dating to the 6th-7th century AD, takes the form of an armed rider sitting astride his horse. Not unlike the depiction of the mounted warrior on the Sutton Hoo helmet, he has centre-parted bobbed hair, large pellet eyes and a moustache.
Sutton Hoo connection
Anglo-Saxon art specialist Stephen Pollington, co-author of Wayland’s Work: Anglo-Saxon Art, Myth and Material Culture 4th-7th Century, believes it may be an early English chess piece.
“The purpose of the piece must remain the object of speculation but one context suggests itself immediately.
Many high-status male burials of the period include the remains of a board on which a table-top game similar to chess was played.
“Later examples use miniature carved figures instead of counters – such as the famous 12th century set of character figures carved in ivory, discovered on the Isle of Lewis. It seems possible that this figure was intended for a similar function.”
TimeLine dubbed the piece the ‘Bradwell Chess Piece’ with the cataloguer describing it as “an excessively rare museum-quality object”.
The sale took place on November 24.