Looking back: The carved stone ball from Structure Ten

A closer view of the stone ball after its recovery.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013, was a special day in the history of the Ness of Brodgar excavations.

That was the day our only example of a carved stone ball was found at the Ness.

Over 200 carved stone balls have been found in Scotland. Roughly the size of an orange and each distinctively decorated, they were made in the Neolithic and no one knows why.

Although we know their function, one thing is abundantly clear – they were made with considerable skill.

The Ness example was significant because it was found in a secure archaeological context.

Molly Bond, who found the carved stone ball in August 2013.

The vast majority recovered to date were found by chance as dislocated finds across Britain, but with an apparent concentration in north-east Scotland.

The Ness ball was found under the north-east buttress of Structure Ten and was one of four objects placed under the buttresses added during the remodelling of the building’s central chamber.

These objects were deliberately placed so their inclusion has to have been deemed significant in some way. We can only speculate as to that significance, although it may be that they might constitute something like foundation deposits for the rebuilt structure.

The ball is heavy and made from a very hard stone, which would have taken some time, and a great deal of patience, to create.

Further reading