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Carved stone balls are one of Scotland’s most enigmatic prehistoric artefacts. Created some 5000 years ago in the Late Neolithic, their distinctive forms were carefully pecked and ground to shape by communities across north east of Scotland. A few, such as Towie Ball, were elaborately decorated and represent some of the finest examples of Neolithic art in Europe.
Yet we still don’t know how carved stone balls were used. It has long been postulated that they were weapons – mounted as maceheads or bound with twine and thrown like South American bolas. But other authors have suggested they were used as weights, measures, mnemonic devices or symbols of power; some mathematicians have even viewed them as representations of platonic solids.
Around 525 carved stone balls are known and vast majority are from Scotland. National Museums Scotland holds the largest collection of carved stone balls in the world. Here are a few of them!
Model produced by Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark