Carved stone ball

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from Watten, Caithness

Postcard of Carved stone ball.
© National Museums Scotland

Carved stone ball

This carved stone ball was found at Watten in Caithness. It dates from between 3200 and 2500 BC. Many functions have been suggested for these objects. Whatever their function, they were prestigious possessions, symbols of power.

The ball of fine quartz has been carved with six prominent knobs. Carved stone balls have been found with as many as 160 knobs, but six is the most common number. This example has been finely polished.

Carved stone balls are distinctly Scottish objects, with over 425 known, all but a handful found in Scotland. They are carved from different types of stone, some easily carved, but others, like this one, more difficult to work. The use of fine quartz is not common, nor is the polished finish.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-365-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.AS 112
Date: Between 3200 and 2500 BC
Material: Quartz, fine; with six knobs, finely polished
Dimensions: 3.00" D
What: Ball
Where: Scotland, Caithness, Watten
Description: Carved stone ball from Watten
  • Calder, Jenni. The wealth of a nation. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland and Glasgow: Richard Drew Publishing, 1989, 18-9. 
  • Marshall, D.N. Carved stone balls. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 108 (1976-7), pp 40-72. 
  • Ritchie, Graham and Ritchie, Anna. Scotland. Archaeology and early history. London: Thames and Hudson, 1981, p 46.
    Find in NLS: Title, Author, Title+Author or British Library: Title, Author, Title+Author
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