Stone balls from the stone age

Orkney Museum has an assortment of stone balls in its cabinets. They’re from the Neolithic and our ancestors kept them and prized them. Many have ornate carvings, with knobbles and concentric circles on them. Others are plain.

Stone Balls in Orkney Museum - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I wonder whether they were for throwing? Since more modern humans evolved two million years ago, our success has been linked to our ability to throw. The use of projectiles for hunting animals and birds and their use to protect ourselves from each other is a crucial part of the human story. What started as a stone picked from the ground in an inter-community squabble has become the land-based inter-continental ballistic missile or submarine-launched nuclear warhead.

We’re apes with with an ancient and outdated morality, based upon hunting, gathering and tribal warfare.

The physical changes needed to throw far and accurately are seen in skeletons of Homo erectus from two million years ago. We now have machines which throw for us. Will our society evolve to stop throwing things at each other? I hope so.

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