The stone with the hole (1999)

In July 1999 a roughly spherical stone with a hole through it was recovered from the reject stone pile at CEMEX’s Leamouth Wharf in Southampton. The wharf is used for processing aggregate from off the Isle of Wight, but it was not possible to establish its position on the seabed more precisely.
Stone with hole. Photograph © Wessex Archaeology.Stone with hole. Photograph © Wessex Archaeology.
The stone was reported to, and later delivered to Wessex Archaeology, where it was described and photographed.
The stone is Greensand, which outcrops at the coast at Swanage in Dorset, Eastbourne in Sussex, Folkestone in Kent, and on the Isle of Wight. Upper Greensand outcrops at Culver Cliff and around Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.
The stone is about 170mm by 230mm, and the hole is about 15mm in diameter and extends right through the centre of the stone. Although the surface of the stone is abraded, there are no obvious toolmarks. Both the spherical shape and the hole could be the result of human handiwork, though it is conceivable that the stone is entirely natural in origin.
On balance, the stone seems to have been fashioned from a block, possibly to serve as a weight for a fishing net, line or lobster pot. Alternatively, it may have been a naturally shaped stone selected opportunistically for such a purpose. A third alternative is that the stone is both natural in origin, and came to be on the seabed through natural processes.
Even if the object was fashioned, selected and/or deposited by people, there is no way of gauging when this might have happened.
The attentiveness of the staff at Leamouth Wharf, and the willingness of CEMEX to seek archaeological advice, helped to show that a voluntary, industry-based reporting protocol could be effective.