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Archaeological Oddities: The Ballachulish Figure

AO Ballachulish Figure

This Iron Age wooden figure, found near the banks of Loch Leven, Argyll, used to give me the creeps. But I feel more affection for her now, after reading about the rough treatment she had, both in the nineteenth century and back in the Iron Age.

Accounts of her discovery suggest that she was either bound in a wickwork structure or weighted down with hurdles during her burial – in a manner also found with bog body burials.

When she was dug out of a peat bog in 1880 she was allowed to dry out – leading to the stretching and warping of her features. Her legs were broken on the journey to Edinburgh, and finally a section of the carving broke off.

As she is flat chested she has been described as a girl or “young goddess”. And that promise of future fertility? Written accounts describe her as holding a phallic object in her right hand. It’s hard to tell from the photos and drawings – so I will have to verify this when Dr A and I go up to Edinburgh this summer!

Read more about the figure here and here.

More Archaeological Oddites here.

Or buy them here.

Dr H



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6 responses to “Archaeological Oddities: The Ballachulish Figure

  1. Katy

    Lovely! I’ve been reading up on this and similar carvings, because I’m going to be making a copy of the “Kingsteignton Idol”. Isn’t the Ballaculish figure really tall? Bryony Coles has her down as 1.48 metres.

    • Dr H

      Hi Katy. These carvings are fascinating. I hope you blog about making your copy. The Ballachullish figure was that tall when it was found but has shrunk about 10 cm since it dried out (according to the NMS website).

  2. Francesca

    I am thinking it would be great to do a tour of British sites to see all the originals of your A.O. stories!

    • Dr H

      That tour would take you to some lovely places. I always get very excited when I see one of my Oddities ‘in the flesh’. I’m looking forward to seeing all the amazing artefacts in the National Museum of Scotland.

  3. Lucinda ⋅

    I’m a little confused by this one. Is a sculpted figure or really a marsh mummy? Or some combination of both: body encased?

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