Review by Hugo Anderson-Whymark
Carved stone balls are one of Scotland’s most intriguing Neolithic artefacts. Some 500 of these palm-sized stone spheres are known, with most found in Aberdeenshire. This monograph is the first solely devoted to the study of these artefacts.
The early chapters provide a comprehensive overview of the last two centuries of research, and present valuable new research on geological identification of raw materials used and their sources. A revised typology lies at its core, with more than 100 pages describing some 46 ‘types’ of ball. This approach teases out some interesting details, but the author admits to being a ‘splitter’, with the significance of many ball ‘types’, divided on minor morphological variations, not demonstrated. Subsequent chapters explore skill and developmental sequence, and argue that the balls were used as symbols of wider communal identity. With the potential for different uses depending on time, space, and context, this is unlikely to be the final word on their function.
The volume is accompanied by online appendices, including a detailed catalogue with photographs. These highlight the rigorous data collection behind this volume, and represent an exceptionally valuable resource for future researchers.
The Circular Archetype in Microcosm: the carved stone balls of late Neolithic Scotland
Chris L Stewart-Moffitt
Archaeopress, £60, Open Access eBook