The world's oldest chess piece - carved from a piece of sandstone around 1,300 years ago - may have been found in an ancient Islamic settlement in south Jordan.
The chessman is believed to be a rook, which in the game is permitted to move horizontally and vertically for as many spaces as possible and can 'castle' with a king.
Chess is thought to have originated in the north of India in 550 AD, before spreading to Persian and from their across Europe and Russia by 1000 AD.
The carved sandstone piece was found at a 1,300-year-old Islamic settlement at Humayma - the modern name for the ancient trading post of Hawara - in southern Jordan, in 1991.
Unlike modern rooks - which are commonly styled to resemble a fortified castle tower - the rectangular stone with two horns is believed to represent the silhouette of a horse-drawn chariot.
In fact, the name 'rook' is derived from 'rukh', which is the Persian word for chariot.
It is thought that the appearance of Persian chariots - which were built to resemble small fortifications - may have inspired the European take on the piece.
Other remains found at the long-occupied and multifarious Humayma site include a Byzantine church, a Roman fort, early Islamic mosques and stone tombs that have been dated to the first century.
'There are references to chess-playing in Islamic texts as early as AD 643 - and the game was popular throughout the Islamic world by the end of the Umayyad caliphate,' wrote archaeologist John Oleson of the University of Victoria.
The Umayyad dynasty ruled the Islamic world - which at the time formed one of the largest empires in history - from 661-750 AD.
These rulers would eventually be overthrown and replaced, however, by the wealthy Abbasid family, who lived in Hawara at the time the ancient chess piece would have been used in games.
Chess itself is believed to have originated in India 1,500 years ago before spreading westward and capturing the heart of players worldwide.
'Since the game probably was carried westward from India by the movement of merchants and diplomats, it is no surprise that early evidence for it should be found at a site on the busy [trade route of] Via Nova Traiana,' Professor Oleson wrote.
'Several later abstract "rooks" from Jordan and elsewhere in the Near East - carved in stone, wood, or ivory - are nearly identical to the Humayma object in design and scale.'
The full findings of the study were presented at the 2019 American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting which was held in San Diego, California from November 20-23.