Stone age maul, Orkney

Found: Unique Stone Age Maul, Orkney

This unique nearly 5kg weighing hand-maul or hammerstone came out of my dry-stone garden-wall in Orkney. Dry-stone mason George B. is my witness that it was definitely coming from the wall he is moving in my garden. The wall was most probably built just after WWII. How this maul ever ended up in my garden-wall is a kind of mystery although George told me dry-stone masons like him tend to leave a special mark in a wall which the next mason or anybody else will find when they take it apart for repair. This way he ever found a hundred year old bottle full of whiskey in a wall. He took it to Orkney’s Highland Park distillery, where they brew high quality whiskey, still with local peat, and they confirmed its age. Highland Park’s ’18 year old’ is according to connoisseurs the ‘best whiskey in the world’, so the bottle was worth a fortune. “What are you going to do with it?” they asked. “Put it back in again” George answered, “I always put back in the wall what I get out”. “But won’t you drink it then?”, they tried. “I don’t like whiskey”, George, originally a Londoner, retorted. So somewhere in Orkney a priceless bottle of whiskey is hidden in a garden wall of which even the owner is not aware, only George knows……

Symmetry and indentations What made me immediately recognize the stone, lying between the last stones to be put in the new wall, as an artifact were its symmetry and the neat circular indentations in the side of the stone, which right-away reminded me of the stone cubes found at the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar a year or two ago of which one (the biggest) had exactly the same kind of indentations on each of its 6 sides and the same smooth roundness; circular indentations were also obvious in another cube found at that time ( see photos below). This stone artifact is much bigger and heavier though, but its likeness proves for me it is from the Stone Age since there is no doubt about the cubes from the Ness being Stone Age artifacts. It is unique because nothing like it can be found on the pictures of mauls on the Internet.


Dimensions The maul is length-wise two sided symmetrical and measures approximately, 10-11cm thick, 13.5 cm wide and 17.5 cm long, it weighs about 4700 grams or 10.5 pounds. It is made of grey and pink spotted stone, which is most likely granite. By the look of it it is of similar material as the bigger cube (above), which I only saw from a distance though.

The maul seen from the side, above

And from the top down, below

The tops have three flattened surfaces

It is a very regular piece of work and beautifully made regarding the hardness of the rock and the use of it, it shows only few and rather small damages at the few sharper edges it has. It has a rather course grain, grey and pinkish, so granite seems most likely and this is indeed found, but only in a small strip 4 mile long and 1 mile wide, near Stromness, not far from where I live. For granite it is described as fine-grained though.

I call it a maul because I cannot think of anything better, although I can’t figure out how it would be attached to a handle with this very specific shape. It can be held in the hand so may be it is a hand hammer stone, but for my (rather small) hand it is just a bit too big to be comfortable, but the design gives a bigger male hand a firm grip, it is actually fitting two, even four, sizes of hand, because one side is bulkier than the other, as the photo shows. So it seems not made for use by only one person, it’s a collective tool!

It is not like any of the pictures of mauls I could find on Internet, compared to those it is also very, very sophisticated, as is usual in Orkney and made of a really hard type of igneous rock, so local granite is most likely.

Organic material grown in the stone surface, seen top down here




All these photos (except HP and the cubes) fall under my copyright.


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