Scottish Art: Behold the Towie Ball!

November 11, 2007 at 2:40 am (Art, History, Scotland)

Two things have gotten me interested in Scottish art: our recent trip to Edinburgh, and Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie novels, particularly the latest one, The Careful Use of Compliments. McCall Smith’s deep attachment to the culture of his native country is everywhere evident in the Dalhousie novels. Isabel is a collector of paintings by Scottish artists. The attraction of this vibrant, enormously intelligent character (and her creator) to this art made me curious about it myself, especially since I had never heard of the artists whose names appear in these novels.

scottish-art.jpg Thus it happens that I have been making my delighted way through a history of Scottish art. One of my favorite discoveries is right at the beginning of the book – which, by the way, is Scottish Art by Murdo Macdonald. In the first chapter, entitled “Prehistory and Early History,” the reader is made acquainted with a most singular object: the Towie Ball. towie.jpg This carved stone sphere and others like it are rarely found outside Scotland. No two are alike. Their exact purpose is a matter of speculation; they may have been “symbols of power with a social-ceremonial use.” About four hundred of these spheres have been found, primarily “between the River Tay and the Moray Firth in the fertile area bounding the southern and eastern edges of the Grampian Mountains.”

mountain_mist.jpg [Beinn Odhar, Grampian Mountains]

I am enchanted by the Towie Ball, which dates, incredibly, from 2500 B.C. I would love to hold it in the palm of my hand. Such an ancient connection…

[You can explore this intriguing subject further at the Marischal Virtual Museum on the University of Aberdeen’s website.]


  1. Scottish Art II: Early Portraitists « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] We’ve come a long way from the Towie Ball… […]

  2. Feeling Scottish… « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] In its opening pages, I discovered an object which I loved (and wanted to hold) instantly: the mysterious Towie Ball. […]

  3. sally j. said,

    i love the Towie Ball! It’s so historic and holds memories of the past times of Scotland.I would love to hold it or BUY it! lol!

    • Roberta Rood said,

      I feel exactly the same way about the Towie Ball!

  4. One book – just one! « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] I love it when a book introduces me to something entirely exotic and new. This novel introduced to the fujara, a large wind instrument native to Slovakia.  This is the instrument upon which the eponymous piper is playing.(Click here to hear it.) Not counting the Greek vases of beloved recent memory, the fujara is the niftiest new object to come into my life since the Towie Ball! […]

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