Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Bit of a Mystery

We received an intriguing request from June Ryves last week. Moving her cows into a paddock one morning she came across 4 small, hand shaped balls lying on the ground. Where had they come from? She moves her cows through this area most days and had never seen them before. The next questions were – what are they made of, who made them and for what purpose? Are these old or something someone had recently made?

 We thought we were able to answer the question of what they are made from – viewing the surface with a microscope camera Sue Brian thought that they are most likely coral. However others think that they may be whale bone, from a knuckle or foot bone. Pauline Reynolds-Barff saw them and wondered if they were Polynesian. In Tahiti similar shaped balls made from rock were used as weapons. While primarily round in shape each has some flatter sides, and Tihoti thought they looked as if they have been used as a sanding tool. Pauline took some photos of them and while showing Meralda Warren in Pitcairn, she thought they looked like ones on Pitcairn Island. However she is yet to confirm this and it could be that they are not related at all. Nat Grube and Yoyo were in the office and they saw them – Yoyo immediately said they were like ones they used on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Coral pieces are used there as a sanding implement, gradually forming into the shapes of the balls we have.

Can you help solve the mystery of the four coral balls? If you have any information about what they are likely to be and who would have made and used them, we would love to hear from you. Please give the Museum a call on 23788.


  1. As a sandstone Holystone was used for scrubbing decks, these could have been used for similar purposes?

    1. Wonderful thought - we'll investigate that further. Many thanks.