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5,000-year-old carved stone balls from Scotland baffle archaeologists

For over 200 years, archaeologists all over the world have been left bewildered by strange carved balls from the Stone Age.

5,000-year-old carved stone balls from Scotland baffle archaeologists
Five carved stone spheres from Scotland held at the Ashmolean Museum
[Credit: Ashmolean Museum]
The 5,000-year-old artifacts have been found mostly in northeast Scotland, but also in the Orkney Islands, England, Ireland and one in Norway.

The Neolithic stone balls are one of the most well-known examples of Neolithic art. A curator at National Museums Scotland has created 3D models of the balls that show new details.

The National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh has the world's largest collection of carved stone balls.

It has approximately 140 originals from Neolithic sites in Scotland and the Orkney Islands.

The stone balls were made by Neolithic communities across the north east of Scotland and while archaeologists don’t know how these balls were used, many theories have been suggested.

They may have been weapons or symbols of status and authority used like ceremonial maceheads are today. Other theories are implausible, such as their use as rollers to transport large stones or as weights for traders.

'Many of the ideas you have to take with a pinch of salt, while there are others that may be plausible,' curator Hugo Anderson-Whymark said to Live Science.

'What's interesting is that people really get their imaginations captured by them — they still hold a lot of secrets.'

The Museum has posted 60 3D models of the stone balls online so that anyone can access them.

They were created with a process known as photogrammetry, which is the science of making measurements from photographs.

The process revealed new information about some of the balls, including chips and markings that were not previously seen, according to Anderson-Whymark.

However, the mystery of the balls is nowhere close to solved.

'We might be able to get a little bit more of that story out in the future by more detailed analysis of these things,' Anderson-Whymark said.

'But they're always going to be slightly enigmatic.'

Author: Mollie Cahillane | Source: Daily Mail [June 20, 2018]


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