Mysterious stone balls made 5,500 years ago discovered on island’s ancient tomb

A pair of balls carved out of stone 5,500 years ago have been discovered in an ancient UK tomb.

Archaeologists found the baseball-sized spheres on near a beach in the Orkney Island of Sanday, north of mainland Scotland.

The balls were previously suspected to have been used as weaponry but most researchers now now agree they were designed as for art, to perhaps signify a person's status or an important phase of their life.

Vicki Cummings, of the University of Central Lancashire in England, who led the excavations of the tomb, told Live Science: "They would have taken quite a long time to make, because it is quite time-consuming to polish a stone … You've got to sit there with some sand and some water and a stone, and basically put the work in."

She explained that this is one of the few times that stone balls have been found where they were originally left, which could shed light on what they were used for.

The two balls had been placed in the corners of two different compartments used to inter human remains in the burial chamber of the tomb.

Pottery was also left long the compartment walls.

Ms Cummings added: "Probably what was happening was that people were putting little slabs down and putting pots on top of these slabs.

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"They really seemed to be interested in the walls and the corners."

A deposit of cremated human bones were found near the entrances of two of the five compartments in the burial chamber, as were several "scale knives".

To make the blades, people would have broken up beach pebbles into sharp-edged flakes.

Ms Cummings believes the scale knives may have been used the knives to separate flesh from the bones of the dead as a burial ritual.

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