Archaeological Activities: Make your own Carved Stone Balls!

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Caithness Broch Project

It's our next episode of...Archaeological Activities!

Today's episode:


Coloured in your Beard of Caithness? Kept all the colours in the lines? You're a damn liar. But it's time for your next activity (or activities).

This time, we're going to learn how to make a CARVED STONE BALL, or, if you're being fancy, a PETROSPHERE!

Over 425 carved stone balls have been found in the UK, though most are from Scotland. Aberdeenshire has the highest concentration - 169 have recovered from the area!

These balls have been dated to the Neolithic Age - that's over 5,000 years old - and several of them have been found in Caithness, such as the one found near the Broch of Yarrows below:

What do you think they were used for? Who made them? Why? So many questions can be asked about these cracking wee objects...

Now, who wants to make their own one?

Well, there are THREE ways. Two safe way for the younger ones, and the actual way, for the big kids. Or the kids you'd trust whacking stones together, anyway.

The first one uses clay and only takes an afternoon to make:

Historic Environment Scotland

The second way is with paper-mache, with instructions by the Young Archaeologists' Club:

Carve a Petrosphere

This is a activity which can be spread over two days. And as you wait for the 'carved stone ball' to dry, you can draw the designs you want for your ball. So it's all about creativity, but also planning!

Now, if you want an activity which will keep the bairns occupied for the whole WEEK, and you trust them wielding a couple of stones, then you can have a go at making your own.

Archaeological activities make your own carved stone balls 2

One of the carved stone balls Chris Gee created - make your own with his instructions here

You will need:

Gloves - to protect your delicate hands

A mask - (surely everyone has one of these now?) to inhibit dust inhalation

Goggles - to stop any bits flying off into your eyes

Basically, get a nice stone, such as sandstone, and hit it with a harder stone into the required shape. Instructions on how to make a carved stone ball can be found on our blog post below - big thanks to Chris Gee of Brodgar Archaeological Chocolate and Art from Orkney for making these lovely recreations and instructions:

Ornamental Carved Stone Balls

You can also learn from Ancient Craft - James Dilley in his wee video here:

Here's some more resources on the carved stone balls of Scotland, too, including a link to some of Hugo Whymark-Anderson's excellent 3D versions via National Museums Scotland:

National Museums Scotland

There are loads more resources online, and these stones are super-interesting. These stones often pose more questions than answers, and for that reason alone they make a great Easter Holiday archaeological activity. But these are activities that are messy, hands-on, tactile AND help to develop some understanding of the skills required to create these balls.

Archaeological activities make your own carved stone balls 3

Some suggestions! Image courtesy of Prehistories

Bet you didn't have this much fun in YOUR Easter Hols!