December 5, 2023

What Was the Purpose of the Mysterious Ancient Stone Spheres? Scientists Finally Have an Answer

The stones vary from 4,500 to 3,600 years of ages.
The stone spheres are thought to be from an Ancient Greek board game..
According to archaeologists from the University of Bristol, mystical stone spheres found in numerous ancient settlements in the Aegean and Mediterranean could be video game pieces from the earliest board games ever created.
These spheres were apparently found at websites in Santorini, Crete, Cyprus, and other Greek Islands. There have been a number of theories about their potential usages, including sling stones, throwing balls, counting/record-keeping systems, or as counters/pawns.
Groups of spheres from Akrotiri. Credit: Konstantinos Trimmis.
The same group from the University of Bristol previously conducted research study that showed there was size variation among certain clusters and collections of spheres. The scientists then meant to investigate any possible patterns within these sphere concentrations to assist shed light on their potential use.

Dr. Christianne Fernée and Dr. Konstantinos Trimmis of the University of Bristols Department of Anthropology and Archaeology recently released a study that examined common attributes on 700 stones that were discovered at the Bronze Age town of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini. The stones ages varied from approximately 4,500 to 3,600 years old.
The kernos (slab with cup marks) at the square of the House of the Benches and an analysis of how the spheres could be associated. Credit: Konstantinos Trimmis.
The stones, which are smaller than golf balls, are in different colours and made from different materials. The analysis put the stones into 2 groups of bigger stones and smaller. In addition, in Akrotiri and in other settlements across the Aegean there are stone slabs with shallow cup marks where the spheres might have sat or been put.
Dr Ferneé said: “The most crucial finding of the study is that the speres fit 2 significant clusters (one of smaller sized and among bigger stones). This supports the hypothesis that they were used as counters for a parlor game with the spheres most perhaps have actually been collected to fit these clusters rather than a counting system for which you would anticipate more groupings.”.
Stone slabs with cup marks (kernos) and their Reflectance Transformation Imaging analysis. Credit: Konstantinos Trimmis.
If these spheres are in-fact part of a boardgame, they will be among the earliest examples, together with similar examples from the Levant and Egypt, such as the Egyptian Mehen and Senet.
Dr Trimmis added: “The social value of the spheres, as shown by the method they were deposited in particular cavities, further supports the idea of the spheres belonging to a video game that was played for social interaction. This gives a brand-new insight into the social interaction in the Bronze Age Aegean.”.
The next stage of the research study is to use a similar methodology to the slabs to see if there is clustering in the cup marks and attempting to associate the spheres and slabs together. The team also want to use artificial intelligence techniques to identify how the video game was in fact played.
Reference: “The rolling stones of Bronze Age Aegean: Applying machine discovering to check out making use of lithic spheres from Akrotiri, Thera” by Christianne L. Fernée, and Konstantinos P. Trimmis, 9 September 2022, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.DOI: 10.1016/ j.jasrep.2022.103615.