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No. 50: Mar-Apr 1987

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Hardball For Keeps

"Archeologists call them "balls" for want of a better word; but, after several centuries of intensive collection, scrutiny and study, nobody really knows what they are.

"Imagine, if you will, a spherical piece of carved rock a little smaller than a baseball. The shape bespeaks artifice. Something -- somebody -- made it.

"More than 500 of these objects have been found in Great Britain and Ireland, most of them in Scotland, near prehistoric dwelling places, passage graves and the mysterious rings of standing stones whose specific purpose also eludes the experts."

Archeologists believe the balls are more than 4,000 years old. All are different; all are symmetrical with projecting knobs, six in most cases.

So much for the basic data. Now let us progress (?) to theory. D.B. Wilson suggests that the balls were really hand-thrown missiles used in bloody games played at standing-stone sites during astronomically decreed rites. (Remember the Maya had their grisly ballgames, too!) The stone balls are indeed perfectly weighted, shaped and textured for throwing at the heads of opposing players. Perhaps, says Wilson, the games had rules such that you were safe when touching a standing stone, but to score you had to run to another standing stone while fair game for the first IPMs (Interpersonal Missiles). And so on and so on. You now get the gist of this clever little piece.

(Wilson, David B.; "Hardball for Keeps," Boston Globe, October 12, 1986.)

Comment. Tongue-in-cheek is fun, but the stone balls remain anomalous.

Reference. Our handbook Ancient Man contains more information on these curious artifacts. Book information at: here.

Typical stone balls from megalithic sites A few typical stone balls from megalithic sites. Illustration from Ancient Man.

From Science Frontiers #50, MAR-APR 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987