Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- due for publication on June 1st 2018. After that, it will be available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Sunday, 21 November 2010

A Load of old Balls

Been looking up those Scottish ball bearings.  The process has made me rather cynical about the ball bearing theory.  See the link above --and also have a look here:

and here:

and here: 

It appears that the majority of those that appear to date from the Neolithic (over 400?) are carved, with knobs and grooves and shapes that can and have been classified by researchers.  They are mostly about the size of tennis balls.  They might have been used as weapons, or as ceremonial or prestige items -- or items used in sporting contests -- and some are incredibly elaborate and beautiful.   Were they equivalent to the Welsh love spoons, made by farm-hands and sailors on dark winter nights or long voyages, as symbols of love, in which the skill of the maker could be admired by the lady recipient?

They cannot have been used as ball bearings, since they would not have rolled properly either in a groove or on a flat surface.  From what I can gather, the only REALLY round and unornamented stones to be found in Scotland are associated with the Iron Age -- far too late to have been of much use for the building of Stonehenge.


Anonymous said...

According to the Exeter university website:-,111303,en.html
"many of the late Neolithic stone balls had a diameter within a millimetre of each other".
You have quoted yourself a three- lines- long website (about the Towie ball) which states: "of 425 carved stone balls.... a FEW are decorated with spirals and curved motifs, as in this (Towie) example." That seems to imply that many of the balls are not decorated.
I am not prepared to rely on your wikipedia reference to confirm that the majority of Aberdeenshire balls are NOT round but have extra grooves, knobs or indentations in them.
You say that they could not have been used as ball bearings, since they would not have rolled properly
either in a groove or on a flat surface.
Let's hope someone out there (e.g. the University of Exeter) will enlighten us as to the preponderance (or otherwise) of SMOOTH carved balls in the vicinity of the recumbent stone circles of Aberdeenshire!

BRIAN JOHN said...

I agree it would be good to get an authoritative comment on this! I'm not going to get steamed up about this -- although I do get irritated when a phenomenon from the far NE of Scotland (which seems to be rather unique) is pulled into the Stonehenge debate without any justification whatsoever. Well, the justification is extra publicity, but let that pass.......

I think you have misunderstood. The spirals and curved motifs are, I assume, the surface decorations or embellishments scratched onto the stones at the very end, once the overall "lumpy" shape has already been established. Most may not have these embellishments, but they are still lumpy.

As for this statement: "many of the late Neolithic stone balls had a diameter within a millimetre of each other". How many? 10%? or 90%? The statement is meaningless --statistically, given a preference for stones of more or less tennis ball size, many of them were bound to be within a millimetre of one another in diameter..... That does not mean that they might have been ball bearings.

Of course we should not accept the Wikipedia reference as authoritative, but I suppose it was written by the good people who know most about these carved stones, so I'm prepared to accept the gist of what is contained. We await further enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

Professor Bruce Bradley looks like a friendly soul, as you will discover if you look at his biography on the Exeter University website. He first studied Anthropology (also Geology to some extent) in the USA, coming to Cambridge University later to study Experimental Archaeology. I bet he'd be interested in your remarks in your "Bluestone Enigma" book about the Blackfoot Native American people and their legend of the erratic rock and how it got there, as he has lived in the desert. Wonder how much detail he knows regarding the provenance and quantity of these allegedly ball-bearing balls in Aberdeenshire? Looks like he could be the U.S. link with the American production Company.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks, Anon. I'll drop him a line and encourage him to have a look at some of my posts. All good fun!