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Mystery Back Yard Iron Ball Archaeology

I was digging up a part of my lawn this afternoon (see the sage project) when I turned over a hunk of sod and a small rusted iron ball fell out.

old iron ball and square head nailThe ball is just a little bit bigger than a chocolate malted milk ball, and was found next to a fragment of a square-headed nail (also seen in this photograph). The place where the ball was found was about three feet away from, and a foot downhill from, an old driveway made of gravel and cinders leading to a horse barn. The old driveway has long since grown over with grass, and my house itself was built in stages beginning in about 1840.

I can’t think what this old iron ball hiding two inches under the grass behind my house might have been made for. The only possibility I can think of is that it’s some kind industrial ball bearing – but what kind of machine would use a ball bearing of this size, and what would have brought it so close to a house?

6 thoughts on “Mystery Back Yard Iron Ball Archaeology”

  1. jenniearcheo says:

    Haven’t seen anything like that before, but I suppose it could be from an early lawnmower or tractor. If there’s a barn nearby, and it was in the farm lane, it could easily have fallen from some big ugly bit of farm equipment. The nail is a cut nail, which were made from the 1790s, and are still used. However, the wire nail came around in the 1870s, and gradually took over the market. Cut nails began as sheets, which is why they’re the same thickness in one dimension, and narrow in the other dimension.

  2. Damen says:

    If it were made of lead rather than iron I’d suggest it may be an old musket ball. As it stands, I’m stumped.

  3. Draconicus says:

    It’s probably a musket ball from a very early rifle. Depending on where you live, it may have even been part of a war! Bring it to a historian right away.

  4. Draconicus says:

    Err… Well if it’s iron, maybe not. Check anyway!
    Maybe a ball from this? Look for more – if you find them, it’s a good possibility.

  5. Damen says:

    I think it’s only a possibility of being Grapeshot if JClifford lives in a coastal town, Draconicus. Though Grapeshot was known to be used in artillery cannons, so…maybe.

  6. Juniper says:

    Looks to me like it came from a pinball machine. Those are solid iron, right?

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