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8 August 2013
Carved ball found at the Ness of Brodgar dig

Archaeologists working at the Ness of Brodgar dig (Orkney, Scotland) have found a carved stone ball. The discovery was made by Molly Bond, a student from Willamette University. "While cleaning around some stones, after having removed rubble from the area, I came across a carved stone, one of the few to have been found in context in the Orkney Islands," Ms Bond said, "The stone fits about into the palm of my hand and has six knobs: four in a circle and two on top," she added.
     The ball was found in a secure context, under the north-east buttress of Structure Ten, opposite a magnificent incised stone found last week, which was also under a buttress. It is beginning to look as if these special deposits, under buttresses, might constitute something like foundation deposits for the entire building. The carved object is heavy and initial impressions suggest that it may be basalt - a very hard and uniform stone - which works well, with a great deal of time and patience.
     The stone is still coated with midden so its exact nature is still to be determined. It may even be coloured or painted. Information on all this will only be clear when the very delicate job of cleaning it without disturbing any deposits is carried out. This will take place at a conservation laboratory in Edinburgh.
     Over 400 examples of these objects of Scottish prehistory are known, and have been the subject of much speculation. The most plausible explanation of the function of these stone balls is that they were symbols of power rather like the orb in the historical symbols of regal power, showing off the status of their owner. Archaeologists Stuart Piggott declared "Their use is wholly unknown' and thus emphasised the need for them to be studied and understood against the background of what we now know about Late Neolithic Scotland."
     Prof Mark Edmonds can't hide his delight at the discovery of the carved stone ball. According to Ms Bond "He is already saying that the only other thing he really wants to find on site is a complete carved spiral motif."

Edited from Orkneyjar / The Ness of Brodgar Excavations Blog (7 August 2013)

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