James Madison's Chess Pieces Unearthed at Montpelier

February 3, 2011

Archaeologists have unearthed a couple of pieces of history at James Madison's country estate: portions of two pawns from his chess set.

Montpelier officials think the pieces are likely from the same set that Madison and Thomas Jefferson used in their frequent matches during Jefferson's visits.

Archaeologists recently discovered the pawns during an ongoing excavation at the fourth president's Orange County estate. Montpelier archaeology director Matthew Reeves called the pieces a treasure that reflects Madison's intellectual pursuits and social life.

The fragments of pawns provided enough detail for researchers to determine what Madison's chess set looked like. Curators then bought an identical, authentic 18th-century ivory chess set, which now is on display in Madison's home.


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