Orkney Stone Balls

By Bernie Bell

I’m going to witter on a bit about carved, and smooth, stone balls again – and I’ll tell you why…….a dig has recently resumed at Tresness, Sanday, and the archaeologists have just found a lovely, big, polished, stone ball!

I don’t check on many Social Media sites, but I do check the Orkney Archaeology Society’s Facebook page daily https://en-gb.facebook.com/OrkneyArchaeologySociety/, as it’s a terrific source of all things archaeological – mostly Orkney, but also further afield – and that’s where I saw the first post about the excavation of a Neolithic chambered Cairn at Tresness, which was interesting in itself – all part of building a picture of Orkney, and the world, at that time.  OAS Facebook provided a link to the dig blog… https://tresnesschamberedtomb.wordpress.com/

I kept checking to see how the dig was developing, and then…and then……..on the  19th September, there it was, a post with a link to the UCLan Archaeology & Anthropology Facebook page with most excellent pics and information about the polished stone ball…..


From there, I followed this link to even more info. about Orkney’s stone balls………….


Readers of TON will be aware of my mild obsession with carved, or smooth, stone balls and though I don’t have a picture of my own of the one  from Tresness, I do have pics. of some of the ones which have been in various exhibitions over the years, so I’ll present them to you…..

  Temporary exhibition at Tankerness House Museum, Orkney, which included two stone balls from the Ness of Brodgar
Part of the ‘Conversations with Magic Stones’ exhibition, Tankerness House Museum… https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/07/24/conversations-with-magic-stones/
Part of a permanent exhibition in Tankerness House Museum

Looking at the image of the polished stone ball from Tresness, it does look considerably bigger than the other Orkney balls. But size isn’t everything, and for me the most significant, stunning, exciting Orkney stone ball, is the one found at the Ness in 2013 …. https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/12/29/mathematical-musings-of-the-neolithic-kind/

“The stone balls continue to inspire people – take a look at the stills from ‘Ruminations’ – a short film which Matthew Webb produced for his MA in Contemporary Art & Archaeology at UHI 2020…. https://archaeologyorkney.com/2021/08/19/100-per-cent-satisfaction-rating-from-art-and-archaeology-masters-students/#comment-599

If you’d like a carved stone ball of your own….. https://brodgar.co.uk/archaeological-art-from-orkney/

Or, a wooden one – https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/01/07/timelines-of-an-orkney-wood-turner/

What’s to say there weren’t wooden carved or polished balls in the Neolithic which will have rotted away long ago?  Though – Neolithic wood was found at this year’s Ness dig – you never know……… https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/08/09/holy-moly-neolithic-wood/

One thing’s for sure, even the replicas are very soothing to hold, whether made of stone or wood. 

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