22 April 2012

A Difference of Centuries

My most recent post in the Video Friday series, Chess Lectures at the MMA, inspired a number of ideas for future posts. The first lecturer, Dylan Loeb McClain of the New York Times, is best known in the chess world as the columnist for that newspaper. During his introduction by a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA), we learn that he is an 'informational graphics editor', which must be his bread-and-butter function at the Old Gray Lady.

At around 6:50 into the clip, McClain displays a graphic which I've captured in the following image. It shows how chess spread from its origin in India ['(1)'] to other regions of the Eastern hemisphere.

When I saw this, it reminded me of an image I once reused on a web page titled The March of Chess. It's an illustration from the inside cover of Davidson's 'Short History of Chess'. McClain's graphic and Davidson's image are similar, except for one important difference : the dates don't match. For example, McClain indicates that chess arrived in France in the 9th century, while Davidson shows it at the beginning of the 15th century. That's a difference of at least 500 years.

Davidson also shows chess being introduced to Scandinavia and the British Isles around 1600, i.e. the beginning of the 17th century. The MMA lectures were motivated by a display of the Lewis chess pieces, discovered in 1831 and dated to the 12th century. That was at least 400 years before chess was introduced in Northern Europe, according to Davidson. Has Davidson's research been discredited?

No comments: