Carved stone ball

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from Benbecula, Outer Hebrides

Postcard of Carved stone ball.
© National Museums Scotland

Carved stone ball

This carved stone ball was found on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. 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 a striking black crystalline rock, was carved into four knobs, with an ornamental line incised around the sides of three of them. Carved stone balls have been found with as many as 160 knobs, but six is the most common number, followed by four.

Carved stone balls are distinctly Scottish objects, with over 425 known, all but a handful found in Scotland. They are remarkably similar in size and are decorated with knobs carved in relief or with incised spirals, circles or other patterns. Some are crude, but others, such as this one, are accomplished carvings, with symmetrically placed knobs.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-407-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 200
Date: Between 3200 and 2500 BC
Material: Black crystalline rock; carved into four discs or knobs with an ornamental line round the side of three of them
Dimensions: 2.75" D
What: Ball
Where: Scotland, Inverness-shire, Benbecula
Description: Carved stone ball from Benbecula
  • 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.
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