Because it was encrusted in midden, the artefact was sent to a specialist cleaning and conservation lab in Edinburgh — and, given previous finds on the site, it was hoped the Ness’s first carved stone ball might be decorated or painted.
However, speaking this week, Nick Card, excavation site director from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) said: “Unfortunately, it’s now clear that the stone ball is not decorated. But, despite that, the fact remains that it’s still a beautifully crafted item, even though it has, unfortunately, suffered a bit from 4,500 years of burial at the Ness.
“As can be seen from the photographs, the surface is in a poor state, due to the stone laminating, so there’s still a bit of work to be done by the conservators.”
Over 400 carved stone balls have been found across the country, over 90 per cent of which came from north-east Scotland.
But the Ness of Brodgar artefact stands out because it was found in a secure context — under the north-east buttress of Structure Ten.
Speaking at the time, Mr Card said: “We certainly don’t want to leap ahead with interpretation, but it is beginning to look as if these special deposits, under buttresses, might constitute something like foundation deposits for the entire building.”