Archaeologists working within the Orkney Islands of Scotland have uncovered two polished stone balls courting again to the Neolithic.
The stone balls have been discovered contained in the Tresness stalled cairn, an early Neolithic tomb situated on Sanday, one in all dozens of islands in Scotland’s Orkney archipelago. It’s a major discovery, as solely a small handful of those prehistoric balls have ever been present in a burial context.
“A cracking discover from the tomb!,” tweeted crew co-leader Hugo Anderson-Whymark, an archaeologist with Nationwide Museums Scotland (NMS), on August 18 after his crew discovered the primary of the 2 balls. “Solely 20 or so Neolithic polished stone balls have been present in Orkney and few have been recovered from safe contexts,” he added.
5 days later, Anderson-Whymark introduced the invention of the second stone ball.
“This one is the scale of a cricket ball, completely spherical and superbly completed,” he tweeted on August 24. “It’s cut up alongside bedding within the banded sandstone however will probably be superb when conserved.”
At roughly 5,500 years previous, Tresness Tomb is amongst Scotland’s oldest monuments. Inhabitants of the close by settlement of Cata Sands have been doubtless liable for the chambered tomb.
The positioning was explored within the 1980s, however archaeologists have been investigating the chambered tomb in earnest since 2017. There’s an added sense of urgency now, as the location is being eaten away by the ocean and a collapsing cliff on which the tomb stands. Because the excavation crew notes on its dig diary and blog, it’s “fascinating to discover particular analysis questions” at a website underneath menace, quite than spending time on a website that’s not threatened. The crew is working to gather as many artifacts as attainable and doc the Tresness website earlier than it disappears. Archaeologist Vicki Cummings from the College of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) co-leads the excavation.
The primary week of the 2021 excavation resulted within the discovery of shells, animal bones, and pottery fragments, however the “largest gasp from the crew” got here when Cummings discovered the primary polished stone ball, in accordance with the crew’s diary.
Round 500 stone balls have been present in Scotland, and, as famous, solely a choose few have been discovered inside a burial website. The aim of the balls isn’t recognized, however the finely carved objects might symbolize energy. It’s additionally attainable that the balls have been used as weapons, thrown at or introduced down onto folks’s heads. Indeed, skulls discovered elsewhere in Orkney present “indicators of such harm,” as The Scotsman reports.
Excavations are ongoing at Tresness Tomb, so extra discoveries await. The crew has additionally created 3D fashions of the stalled cairn (here and here), documenting modifications to the location as excavations proceed.
Extra: Prehistoric stone monument in Scotland could have been deliberately constructed to draw lightning.